The African Union is sending a fact-finding mission to Eritrea and Djibouti as tension mounts over their disputed border at one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
The AU’s move has been backed by the UN Security Council, which on 19 June urged the two countries to resolve their differences peacefully.
The tension has been driven by Qatar’s move to withdraw its peacekeeping forces from the border.
The peacekeepers had been in place since 2010 as part of efforts to resolve a dispute over the status of Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Island, claimed by both Eritrea and Djibouti.
The tiny Dumeira Island lies just off the coast of the two countries, at the southern end of the Red Sea. It is close to the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, an important shipping lane for global commerce.
The two countries’ armed forces clashed on the border in 2008. Both states later accepted Qatar’s offer of mediation and the deployment of peacekeepers, though bilateral relations have remained strained.
The withdrawal of the Qatari peacekeepers appears to be related to the country’s current diplomatic dispute with some of its Gulf neighbors, which over recent weeks have imposed a blockade.
Eritrea and Djibouti: What happened and why?
On 16 June, Djibouti accused Eritrea of sending its troops into the disputed territory, following the withdrawal of the Qatari peacekeepers, a move that Doha had confirmed two days earlier, though without giving any reason.