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UN Ethiopia-Eritrea mission: Calls for caution

UN official calls for caution in deciding future of UN Ethiopia-Eritrea mission

With the United Nations Security Council considering whether or not to reduce the role of the peacekeeping United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) in calming border tensions between the two Horn of Africa countries, a senior UN official today urged prudence in charting a future course.

After a closed-door Council meeting, Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno told reporters: “I think it is important at this critical stage in Ethiopia Eritrea to exert some measure of caution. The mission serves an important role.”

By a unanimous vote last week Monday, the Council decided that if the parties had not fully complied with a resolution calling on them to accept the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission decision demarcating the border by the time a meeting of that body ended the same week, it would “adjust the mandate and troop level” of the more than 3,000-strong UNMEE by the end of the month.

The armed forces of the two countries fought a 1998-2000 border war, but Ethiopia has not accepted the border delineated in 2002, awarding Badme, the town that triggered the fierce fighting, to Eritrea. Eritrea has intensified its criticisms of the UN for not forcing Ethiopia to accept the Commission’s final and binding decisions, has restricted UNMEE’s movements by land and air, and has twice detained the mission’s Eritrean staff members.

Mr. Guéhenno noted that UNMEE has helped to prevent a resumption of conflict between the two countries, thereby making a very significant contribution to peace.

Even if UNMEE’s capability is not what it should be for monitoring the buffer Temporary Security Zone (TSZ), it could make an important contribution to the security of the demarcation teams, if the demarcation gets started, he said.

“So that’s what the Security Council is going to weigh. I hope it will be cautious,” he said. “I think there are risks that will need to be weighed.”

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