Asked in International Law

Q: Write me legal defenses available for Eritrea regarding Ethiopia's claim of access or control over port of Assab

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2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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  • International Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Here are some potential legal defenses Eritrea could assert regarding Ethiopia's claim to access or control the port of Assab:

1. Territorial sovereignty: As an independent nation, Eritrea has the right to exercise full sovereignty over its territory, including the port of Assab. Ethiopia's claim infringes upon Eritrea's territorial integrity and sovereign rights.

2. Lack of legal basis: There is no established international law or binding agreement granting Ethiopia a legal right to access or control the port. In the absence of such a legal foundation, Ethiopia's claim lacks legitimacy.

3. Boundary delimitation: Following Eritrea's independence in 1993, the boundaries between the two countries were delimited through international agreements. These agreements do not provide for Ethiopia's rights over Assab, which falls within Eritrea's territory.

4. Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) decision: After the 1998-2000 war, the EEBC, established under the Algiers Agreement, issued a binding delimitation decision in 2002. This decision, which Ethiopia initially rejected, affirmed Eritrea's sovereignty over the port of Assab.

5. Fundamental change of circumstances (rebus sic stantibus): Even if past agreements granted Ethiopia access to Assab, Eritrea could argue that its independence in 1993 represented a fundamental change in circumstances. This change would render such agreements inapplicable under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

6. Compensation for past use: If Ethiopia previously used Assab under past agreements, Eritrea could seek compensation for this use and assert that those agreements are no longer valid following Eritrea's independence and the EEBC decision.

7. Negotiated solution: Eritrea could express willingness to negotiate a mutually beneficial arrangement for Ethiopia's use of Assab, while maintaining Eritrean sovereignty. This could include port access agreements or joint development initiatives.

Ultimately, Eritrea's strongest arguments would likely rely on its territorial sovereignty, the EEBC delimitation decision, and the lack of a binding legal basis for Ethiopia's claim under current international law. However, a negotiated solution that respects Eritrea's sovereignty while addressing Ethiopia's interests could provide a pragmatic resolution.

Tim Akpinar
Tim Akpinar
  • Little Neck, NY

A: If you're in a public position, it would be prudent to discuss this with high-level colleagues in your nation's government. If this is for academic research, it may be necessary to research recent news developments. Good luck

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