France supports Djibouti in clashes with Eritrea

France is providing support to Djibouti during border clashes with neighbouring Eritrea that the Djiboutian president has described as war, reports said on Friday.

Fighting between Horn of Africa nations Eritrea and Djibouti this week left nine Djiboutians dead and about 60 wounded. It is unclear if any Eritrean forces died in the fighting.

“Since the beginning of hostilities, French soldiers stationed in Djibouti have been providing assistance in logistics, medical but also support in terms of intelligence service to the Djibouti army,” French officer Colonel Ducret told Djibouti’s state-owned news agency ADI, the BBC reported.

Both France and the US have military bases in Djibouti, a former French colony.

Djibouti says the clashes began after weeks of tension when Eritrean troops opened fire in the Mount Gabla area, which overlooks key Red Sea
shipping lanes.

Eritrea, however, has rejected charges of military aggression, and accused the United States of contributing to “the proliferation and aggravation of crises” in the Horn of Africa.

The US State Department in a statement on Thursday condemned Eritrea’s military aggression and called on both sides to withdraw their troops
from the border area.

The United Nations Security Council and the Arab League have also called on the two nations to sign a ceasefire and step back from an escalation of the conflict.

However, Eritrea reacted angrily to the criticism and said the US was to blame for instability in the region.

“The sad and well-known fact is that US policy and meddling in our region ... is contributing to the proliferation and aggravation of crises,” the Eritrean Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on Thursday evening.

Relations between Eritrea and the US are permanently strained.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 and then later fought a bloody war with its neighbour over borders.
There is still tension between the nations.

The US provides aid and military support to Ethiopia, which it sees as a key ally in combating terrorism in the Horn of Africa.

Western governments also suspect Eritrea of aiding insurgents currently battling the transitional government in Somalia. - Sapa-DPA

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