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Extends UN mission in Ethiopia, Eritrea for month

Security Council extends UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea for one month

The United Nations Security Council today extended the mandate of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) for another month, but warned that unless both sides fulfilled its earlier demands – including lifting restrictions on UN personnel and recognizing a boundary decision – it will review other options ranging from transforming the operation into an observer mission to withdrawing it altogether.

Voting unanimously on the extension until mid-May, the 15-member body also reiterated demands that, among other measures, Eritrea reverse its decision to ban the Mission’s helicopter flights, and that Ethiopia accept the final and binding decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission.

“Lasting peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea…as well as in the region cannot be achieved without the full demarcation of the border between the two parties,” the Council resolution stressed, recalling that both parties had agreed to “accept the determinations of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission as final and binding.”

It went on to note that such demarcation of the border “cannot proceed unless UNMEE is allowed full freedom of movement throughout its area of operations,” as compared with the current “unacceptable restrictions” placed on the Mission which “must be lifted.”

The Council concluded by warning that if both sides “have not demonstrated full compliance” with these demands by the beginning of next month, then it will review the mission by 15 May “with a view to a decision on possible adjustments of UNMEE, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report dated 3 January… including (among others) a transformation into an observer mission.”

In his two most recent reports on the issue, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called the situation of UNMEE “untenable” because of the intransigence of the parties in fulfilling those two demands and the prevailing situation which is dangerous to UN personnel and the region. For that reason, he had proposed a range of options to reconfigure the Mission, ranging from redeployment to total withdrawal.

In his most recent report, released in early March, Mr. Annan recommended extending UNMEE in its present configuration for two or three months “in order for the forthcoming meeting of the Boundary Commission to bear fruit.”

After that meeting convened on 10 March in London, Mr. Annan said he was pleased by the constructive participation of both parties, and expressed hope that it would allow the Commission’s decision to be implemented without further delay.

A binding decision of the Boundary Commission in 2002 awarded Badme – the town that triggered a bitter, two-year border war that ended in 2000 – to Eritrea, which has become increasingly critical of the UN for not forcing Ethiopia to accept that demarcation.

Eritrea subsequently banned UNMEE flights and peacekeepers of certain nationalities from its territory while restricting the mission’s patrols.

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