Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi admitted Saturday his country has reinforced its troops on its border with Eritrea since December as a "precautionary measure," the same day he offered first ever direct talks with Eritrean leader on border disputes.
"We have taken measures and beefed up our defense capabilities around the border since December to prevent any miscalculation by the other side," Meles told journalists.
Earlier this month, Eritrea banned air patrols along the 1,000-kilometer temporary security zone and it did not give any reasons for the restrictions, according to Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, spokeswoman of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).
Eritrea's move increased concerns that the Red Sea state was trying to cover up troop redeployment, diplomats here said.
Meles said Eritrea's actions on UN flights violated a ceasefire agreement signed by the two countries in 2000 and urged the UN Security Council to enforce it.
"We are still hopeful that the other side (Eritrea) will not miscalculate," he added.
Under a 2000 peace deal ending their two-year border war, Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed to accept the conclusions of an independent boundary commission on where the border should lie.
The commission issued its findings in April 2002 and Eritrea fully accepted them. But the process of marking out the new boundary on the ground broke down after Ethiopia objected that theflashpoint western town of Badme had been awarded to Eritrea.
The border war, which killed more than 70,000 people, began when Ethiopia accused Eritrea of invading Badme.
In support of the stalled peace process, UNMEE, which now numbers about 3,000 troops and observers, has been patrolling a buffer zone separating the two countries' militaries since July 2000.