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Cablegate: Unsc Mission to Ethiopia-Eritrea Breaks No New

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Japan's UN PermRep Amb. Kenzio Oshima told
UN Security Council members and troop-contributing countries
in Addis that his November 7-8 trip to Ethiopia and Eritrea
on behalf of the Council was "technical" in nature, and did
not aim at promoting political dialogue. Providing a readout
of his meeting with Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, Oshima
said Ethiopia's position on border demarcation had not
changed: Ethiopia accepted the boundary commission's decision
"in principle", which was not the same as "final and
binding." Despite its opposition to immediate demarcation,
Oshima praised Ethiopia's "restraint" in responding to
Eritrea's restrictions on UNMEE, noting that UNMEE
characterizes Ethiopia's military deployments as "defensive."
UNMEE officials, meanwhile, were more vocal in highlighting
UNMEE's inability to monitor 60 per cent of the border,
especially military movements on the Eritrean side.
According to UNMEE Force Commander Singh, both sides have
activated airfields and air defenses; moreover, each side
appears to have deployed two additional divisions,
supplementing existing troops along the border. UNMEE SRSG
Legwaila warned that UNMEE's withdrawal would be "the
quickest way to war," as Ethiopia threatens to re-occupy the
Temporary Security Zone separating the two countries if UNMEE
leaves. While France agrees that UNMEE's withdrawal would be
"a catastrophe that must be avoided at all costs," Japan
believes that revising UNMEE's mandate could generate cost
savings. The UNMEE SRSG strongly opposes the current Greek
draft UNSC resolution, believing that it comes too late after
the issue was first brought to the Security Council a month
ago, and that it would only "enrage" both parties. UNSC
members voiced support for a U.S. special envoy; UNMEE SRSG
underscored that the envoy should represent the United
States, not the United Nations, as Eritrea had rejected the
previous UN envoy as "illegal." Charge replied that U.S.
would seek an envoy, whether U.S. or UN or both, that Eritrea
and Ethiopia would accept. UNMEE again pleaded for satellite
imagery of the border in order to improve the safety and
security of UNMEE troops. END SUMMARY.

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2. (U) At a November 7 meeting hosted by the Charge, Japan's
UN PermRep Amb. Kenzo Oshima, Chairman of the UN Security
Council's Working Group on Peace-keeping Operations, briefed
heads of mission from UNSC members and troop-contributing
countries (TCC) on his meeting earlier that day with
Ethiopian FM Seyoum and his expected visit the following day
to Asmara. Senior officials from the UN Mission in Ethiopia
and Eritrea (UNMEE) accompanied Oshima, including Special
Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) Amb.
Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, Deputy SRSG Amb. Azouz Ennifar, and
UNMEE Force Commander Major-General Rajender Singh.


3. (SBU) Amb. Oshima defined his mission as "technical": he
would meet with UNMEE, UNSC members, TCCs, and, if possible,
representatives of Ethiopia (GOE) and Eritrea (GSE). His
most important message was to push Eritrea (GSE) to lift its
restrictions on UNMEE, while expressing the UNSC's confidence
in how UNMEE troops performed under difficult circumstances.
"I'm not here for any negotiations or political discussions,"
he declared. Oshima had met with Ethiopian FM Seyoum, and
was awaiting confirmation from the GSE of appointments the
next day in Asmara. (NOTE: A November 8 UNMEE press briefing
confirmed that Oshima met with Colonel Zacarias Ogbagaber,
Eritrea's Chief of the Commission for Coordination with
UNMEE, and with presidential advisor Yemane Ghebremeskel.
END NOTE.) UNMEE officials explained that Oshima would not
visit the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ), which lies entirely
within Eritrea, as doing so required too much transit time,
due to Ethiopia and Eritrea's refusal to allow direct flights
between their two countries.

4. (SBU) Reviewing UNSC actions, Oshima said "operational
problems affecting TCCs", resulting from the GSE's ban of
UNMEE flight operations and other restrictions, were a
"matter of great concern" to the UN. The UNSYG had reported
movements of troops in areas adjacent to the Temporary
Security Zone (TSZ), he said, as well as "irregular
movements" within the TSZ itself. He referred to the UNSC
statement issued on October 4 (S/PRST/2005/47). No decision
had been taken on a draft UNSC resolution proposed by Greece,
he added, but despite different views, there was no
disagreement among members that the GSE had to lift
restrictions on UNMEE. In addition to addressing the
"immediate issue" of the GSE's restrictions on UNMEE, the
UNSC was concerned about the root cause of the stalemate
between Ethiopia and Eritrea, he said, acknowledging that
there was "frustration at the lack of progress in

5. (SBU) Oshima said he would report his findings to the
UNSC, but noted that the SRSG had already reported recent
border developments to that body. Possible next steps
included considering whether to approve a new resolution,
appoint a special envoy, or propose that "witnesses" to
previous agreements either meet or intervene. Oshima said no
decision had been reached yet, after consultations between
the UNSYG and the USG, on whom the envoy would represent.

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6. (SBU) Oshima said he had a "good meeting" on November 7
with GOE FM Seyoum, but reported no change in Ethiopia's
position from its October 31 letter to the UNSC. According
to Oshima, Seyoum continued to assert that actual demarcation
of the border would require "readjustments," e.g., to ensure
that a village not be divided in two. Seyoum also had said
that the border issue was not the sole issue between Ethiopia
and Eritrea: economic trade, normalization of relations, and
access to the sea were also key.

7. (SBU) Oshima said that while it would be useful if the GOE
were to state publicly that it accepted the Ethiopia-Eritrea
Boundary Commission's (EEBC) decision as "final and binding,"
as stipulated by the Algiers peace accord, the GOE continues
to agree with the decision only "in principle". Highlighting
the difference, Oshima questioned whether "I will marry you
in principle" meant the same as "I will marry you
unconditionally." Describing himself as an "expert in
linguistic contortions," SRSG Legwaila agreed that this
represented a significant caveat. Legwaila said mutual
acceptance of the EEBC decision would be a good basis for
parties to begin dialogue. Not accepting the finality of the
EEBC decision was a violation of article 415 of the peace
agreement, Legwaila added.

8. (SBU) SRSG Legwaila expressed concern that FM Seyoum had
repeatedly told him, DSRSG Ennifar, and the UNMEE Force
Commander that "the Boundary Commission will never open
offices in Ethiopia," when in fact the EEBC has two offices
in Ethiopia that have been closed as a cost-saving measure.
As the EEBC requires offices on both sides of the border for
demarcation, Seyoum's comment challenges the notion that
Ethiopia is ready to demarcate the 85 per cent of the border
that is not in dispute, Legwaila said.

9. (SBU) Asked if he was satisfied with Ethiopia's reaction
to Eritrea's restrictions, Oshima said FM Seyoum "reassured
us of restraint." Ethiopia had responded "appropriately," he
said, adding that both the UNMEE SRSG and Force Commander had
characterized Ethiopia's redeployment of forces as

10. (SBU) According to Oshima, Eritrea's charge d'affaires in
New York had told him that the GSE had proposed a bilateral
arrangement to Ethiopia, but had not pursued it further, as
Ethiopia had rejected it. SRSG Legwaila observed that
Ethiopia had, on several occasions, proposed swapping
territory, and that the final point of PM Meles' five-point
plan proposed dialogue, which Eritrea had rejected.


11. (SBU) SRSG Legwaila interjected that the GSE's
restriction on UNMEE flights prevented UNMEE from monitoring
60 per cent of the border. UNMEE could not determine whether
Eritrea was now building up forces along its side, he said.
On the Ethiopian side, there was "more transparency": UNMEE
knew Ethiopia had been amassing troops since December 16,
2004. He noted that UNMEE had requested satellite imagery
from the United States (ref C), as "there is no other
alternative" to aerial surveillance. Without aerial
surveillance, UNMEE Force Commander Singh said he would need
15 times more troops (i.e., 45,000) to monitor the border;
even more would be needed if the GSE imposed further
restrictions, such as allowing only foot patrols. Singh
noted that UNMEE operated under Chapter VI (peaceful
settlement of disputes) of the UN Charter, and therefore
depended on consent from both parties, which was now
"incomplete." "We have lost our ability to serve as a
tripwire, and to warn the international community," Singh

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12. (SBU) UNMEE Force Commander Singh outlined key military
-- Both sides had activated airfields and air defenses.
-- Ethiopia had deployed two additional divisions in the
western sector, along with two special forces units. These
were in addition to eleven divisions deployed along the
border in December 2004, and seven more divisions added in
January 2005. Singh noted that PM Meles had notified him and
the SRSG of the January deployment.
-- Eritrean troops were now deployed on (rather than near)
the border, and maintaining and preparing defenses.
-- UNMEE had recently observed one to two new Eritrean
divisions in areas adjacent to the TSZ, but now could no
longer locate them.
-- Within the TSZ itself, the GSE had restricted UNMEE from
patrolling the western and central sectors at night. UNMEE
had also curtailed challenge inspections in many areas.

--------------------------------------------- ----
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13. (SBU) SRSG Legwaila cautioned that allowing UNMEE's
withdrawal would be the "quickest way to war," as the
Government of Ethiopia had pledged to reoccupy the TSZ in the
event UNMEE withdrew (ref A). The TSZ was intended to keep
Eritrean troops 25 kilometers from the border, he said.
Current restrictions hampering UNMEE's freedom of movement,
especially during the night, were thus not only "making
nonsense of the Temporary Security Zone," but also breeding
suspicion, which could ultimately "force war quickly," he
said. Legwaila said movements of troops, tanks, or aircraft
were a secondary concern, compared to the GSE's flight ban on
UNMEE; reversing the ban would allow UNMEE to monitor and
assess such movements.

14. (SBU) France's ambassador to Ethiopia remarked that the
withdrawal of UNMEE would be "a catastrophe that must be
avoided at all costs." He added that many parties had
attempted to reach out to Eritrea, without success.

15. (SBU) As chairman of the UNSC's working group on
peace-keeping operations, Amb. Oshima said he had convened a
separate meeting with TCCs. Five recent casualties among
UNMEE peace-keepers prompted concerns that TCCs could
withdraw their contingents, he said, as the GSE's flight ban
included medical evacuations.

16. (SBU) Amb. Oshima said Japan was concerned about UNMEE,s
$186 million annual cost, as peace-keeping operations cost $5
billion annually. Mandate review could generate savings, he

17. (SBU) India's ambassador to Ethiopia agreed with SRSG
Legwaila that Ethiopia would reoccupy the TSZ if UNMEE
withdrew. He did not directly threaten to withdraw Indian
troops (who, along with a contingent from Jordan, comprise
the majority of UNMEE's military strength), but questioned
what UNMEE,s future would be if it could not fulfill its
mandate. India advocated a meeting of "friends" of Ethiopia
and Eritrea, and launching a parallel political process to
address the current impasse. (NOTE: No representative of
Jordan attended Oshima's briefing. END NOTE.)

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18. (SBU) Addressing possible next steps, SRSG Legwaila said
he strongly opposed the draft Greek resolution, saying it
would simply "enrage" the parties. "This resolution has now
outlived whatever usefulness it might have (had)," he said.
Legwaila said Ethiopian FM Seyoum was "violently opposed" to
the proposed resolution (ref B), and that the GSE's reaction
would be even worse. The UNSC should have passed a
restriction solely addressing the GSE,s flight ban on
October 5-6, he continued, in conjunction with its
presidential statement, in response to the call for
"emergency action". Now, he added, the proposed resolution
was too late and irrelevant. "We should forget about the
resolution and do something else," he said. Charge observed
that the UNSC did not want to make a delicate situation more
difficult. Amb. Oshima remarked that the "reflexes of the
Security Council" are to pass repeated resolutions and
condemnations, but he questioned whether a strong resolution
would help address the current situation.

19. (SBU) UK Ambassador Bob Dewar expressed reservations
about a meeting of "witnesses." While this was an important
option, it needed to be approached carefully, he said, "to
ensure it adds value."

20. (SBU) Legwaila argued that any new special envoy should
represent the United States, not the United Nations. Both
Ethiopia and Eritrea had said the United States was the only
interlocutor it could accept, he noted. Thus, "it would be
absolutely tragic" if the UNSYG appointed another UN special
envoy who failed. Legwaila explained that Eritrea considers
the UN "irrelevant" and perceived former Canadian foreign
minister Lloyd Axworthy,s earlier appointment as UN Special
Envoy as an attempt by the UNSYG to renegotiate the EEBC
decision. Some GSE officials thus considered Axworthy's
appointment as UN Special Envoy illegal, Legwaila said. "No
one should ask the Secretary-General to appoint a special
envoy," given the circumstances of the earlier UN envoy's
failure, Legwaila said. If a second UN envoy failed,
Legwaila said, then even someone with the stature of the
former President Bush would not succeed. "The United States
must take a chance for peace," Legwaila concluded, urging the
appointment of a U.S. envoy.

21. (SBU) Charge told Legwaila that the key for the United
States was not whether the envoy was UN or U.S./UN or U.S.,
but whether he was accepted by both sides. Brazil's
ambassador said he supported bilateral (vice UN) intervention
to address Ethiopia-Eritrea tensions, as well as
consultations with academic experts. Norway poloff said his
country supported a US envoy, whether US or UN-hatted, but
that the envoy needed to make tough demands on both sides,
and have the international community unite behind him.

22. (U) Greek ambassador noted that the Council of Europe had
been able to enforce unpopular decisions on its members, who
accepted them as binding; he questioned why demarcation of
commonly accepted portions of the border could not begin. In
response, SRSG Legwaila reiterated the well-established
differences between the parties' positions on the EEBC
-- FM Meles has publicly stated that Ethiopia seeks dialogue
prior to demarcation.
-- Beginning in August 2003, Ethiopia refused to implement
the EEBC's demarcation directives to the chief surveyor to
fix lines along the border.
-- Eritrea refuses to allow demarcation of the east, so long
as Ethiopia refuses to allow demarcation of the entire border.
Legwaila underscored that in demarcation of the border,
Ethiopia seeks adjustments in delimitation; and that the
GOE's acceptance of the EEBC decision only "in principle"
remained a major stumbling block.

23. (SBU) COMMENT: Amb. Oshima's "technical" visit on behalf
of the UN Security Council provided him with a first-hand
introduction to the issue in both countries and also
clarified where each stands. The visit also demonstrated
continuing UN commitment to avoid another war. Post
continues to await guidance in response to UNMEE SRSG
Legwaila's October 26 request to the USG for satellite
imagery (ref C), as UNMEE troops would feel more secure if
they had better information about the parties' troop
deployments. END COMMENT.

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