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Annan urges Eritrea to lift flight ban on UN

Saddened by peacekeeper’s death, Annan urges Eritrea to lift flight ban on UN

With a peacekeeper dead of cardiac arrest after an unnecessarily long medical evacuation, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged the Eritrean authorities, in the strongest terms, to lift without delay their flight ban and other restrictions on the operations of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).

“The Secretary-General is particularly troubled that the death occurred in the circumstances when, because of the inadmissible restrictions imposed by Eritrea, the medical evacuation of the sick peacekeeper to a hospital required the use of a longer route,” Mr. Annan’s spokesperson said in a formal statement.

The peacekeeper, member of the Indian contingent of UNMEE, suffered a cardiac arrest in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between Eritrea and Ethiopia and was pronounced dead after having been evacuated to Addis Ababa.

According to UNMEE, Lance Corporal Kamble Ramesh Annappa first succumbed in the early hours of the morning and died soon after arrival at the hospital at 1400 hours local time.

“It is pertinent to not that this soldier could have been evacuated to Asmara, Eritrea in a much shorter time frame since a helicopter was available at the Battalion Headquarters in Adigrat,” UNMEE said in its briefing notes.

“This trip to Asmara would have taken only 45 to 50 minutes flying time to reach the UN Level 2 hospital located in the capital,” it continued.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bitter border war between 1998 and 2000 and the TSZ now separates the two countries. Mr. Annan, in a recent report to the Security Council, offered a number of options for coping with the current stalemate, ranging from redeployment to total withdrawal of UNMEE.

Eritrea has increased its criticism of the UN for not forcing Ethiopia to accept the border delineated in 2002, awarding Badme – the town that triggered the border conflict – to Eritrea.

In addition to the ban on over flights by its helicopters, Eritrea has barred peacekeepers of certain nationalities from its territory and UNMEE patrols face restrictions on their movements.

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