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UN demands Eritrea lift restrictions after death

Security Council demands Eritrea lift restrictions on UN after peacekeeper’s death

The Security Council today reiterated its demand that Eritrea lift all restrictions on the operations of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), in the wake of a peacekeeper’s death after a medical evacuation that took much longer than necessary due to the ban on UN helicopter flights.

“Members of the Council regret that the death occurred in the circumstances of the unacceptable restrictions imposed by the Government of Eritrea on the operations of UNMEE, which have grave implications on the safety of its staff and which must be lifted without further delay,” said a press statement delivered today by the President of the Council, César Mayoral of Argentina.

Yesterday evening, Secretary-General Kofi Annan also called on Eritrea to lift the restrictions, while expressing condolences to the family of the deceased – a sentiment echoed by Council Members today.

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 2 p.m. 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 yesterday, specifying a 45 to 50 minute flight time to the UN hospital in that capital.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bitter border war between 1998 and 2000 and the TSZ now separates the two countries. Eritrea has been critical 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 overflights 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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