War drums are beating again on the restive Ethiopia-Eritrean border after Asmara accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of plotting to launch attacks to reclaim lost territory.
Asmara's accusations on Tuesday came a few days after rebel TPLF forces and Eritrean forces clashed in two fronts in Badme and Rama towns which lie along their bordering territories.
The Eritrean Ministry of Information said, “It was no secret that the TPLF leaders were preparing for a new military attacks.”
“Their main target is to re-occupy our land, which international law has recognised as the sovereign territory of Eritrea, and to re-commit their hatred-driven looting and atrocities on Eritrean soil.
“TPLF's plot has the blessing and support of western powers…They (Western powers) are rushing to deliver grain, medicine, fuel and other supplies in the name of humanitarian assistance before TPLF starts the new war,” the ministry added, said without naming the Western powers.
A long-standing tense relation between Ethiopia's Tigray region and Eritrea deteriorated in 2020 after President Isaias Afwerki sent his forces to join the Ethiopian federal army in fighting the TPLF, a proscribed group.
The Eritrean Ministry of Information further said that the Eritrean people will fight to defend country from any attacks.
The international community has repeatedly urged the Eritrean government to withdraw its forces from Tigray in northern Ethiopia.
Sumur Tsehaye, a local political commentator, says Eritrea has “almost done nothing” to pull its forces from Tigray and neighbouring areas.
“It is such an irony when Eritrean officials accuse Tigrayan forces of preparing for war while their military forces are illegally present inside Western Tigray, which directly violates international law,” Mr Sumur told The EastAfrican.
“The Eritrean military has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and alleged genocide in Tigray…If Eritrea wants to give peace a chance in the region, it should withdraw all its troops from Tigray.”
TPLF leaders have not reacted to Eritrea's fresh allegations.
All parties to the Tigray conflict, including Eritrean forces, are accused of committing grave human rights abuses, including genocide and sexual violence.
Badme, the main source of the 1998-2000 border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, was granted to Eritrea in 2002 by an Intermediate Boundary Commission.
The border conflict claimed the lives of over 70,000 people.
In 2018, long-time rivals Ethiopia and Eritrea formally restored diplomatic ties, ending 20 years of enmity with Ethiopia accepting to obey the Commission’s findings.