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ICRC President visits Eritrea and Ethiopia: decisive progress in the release and repatriation of POWs

23-08-2002 News Release 02/48

Geneva (ICRC) – The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mr Jakob Kellenberger, has today completed his first visit to the region since the end of the international armed conflict between the two countries in 2000.

During his official visits to Eritrea and Ethiopia, Mr Kellenberger met Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki in Asmara on 20 August, and Ethiopian President Girma Wolde Georgis and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in Addis Ababa on 22 August.

The ICRC President's main objective in both capitals was to ensure the release and repatriation of all remaining Prisoners of War (PoWs) in accordance with the Third Geneva Convention and the peace agreement signed in Algiers on 12 December 2000.

During his meeting with Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki, Mr Kellenberger took note of Mr Afewerki's commitment to release and repatriate the Ethiopian PoWs held in Eritrea. The release and repatriation of the PoWs, registered and visited by the ICRC, will take place next week.

During his meeting with Mr Kellenberger, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi expressed his government's commitment to release and repatriate the Eritrean PoWs held in Ethiopia and other persons interned as a result of the conflict. Release and repatriation will take place upon completion of internal procedures to be worked out with the ICRC.

In both capitals, Mr Kellenberger reiterated the ICRC’s strong commitment to helping resolve all remaining issues related to persons captured or allegedly captured during the conflict.

The ICRC welcomes the decisive steps taken towards the prompt return of the PoWs to their home country and their families, and looks forward to facilitating the release and repatriation they have been so anxiously awaiting for close to 18 months.

Mr Kellenberger also held fruitful discus sions on other issues, such as the situation of internally displaced persons and of populations affected by the combined drought and armed violence in north-eastern Ethiopia, for whom he reiterated the ICRC's full commitment and support. The ICRC President also discussed co-operation issues with the leadership of the Red Cross Society of Eritrea and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society.