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UN struggles to monitor Ethiopia-Eritrea frontier

UN's capacity to monitor Ethiopia-Eritrea frontier deteriorating – official

The ability of the United Nations to monitor the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) separating Ethiopia and Eritrea is shrinking while posturing by the formerly-warring Horn of Africa countries is raising the stakes, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping said today in New York.

"Our visibility of what is happening on the ground has continued to deteriorate," Jean-Marie Guéhenno told reporters following his closed-door briefing to the Security Council. "It is probably about 40 per cent now that we can really monitor with some measure of confidence."

Constraints on the movements of the UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), which is charged with monitoring their peace accord, "have continued to not only be there but to tighten," Mr. Guéhenno said, adding that there are limitations in the TSZ and on its north and south sides, diminishing the UN's capacity to monitor the area.

The Under-Secretary-General also pointed to troop movements, which have been reported on the Eritrean and Ethiopian sides. "Both sides disclaim any intent to go to war," he said.

While there is no sign of an imminent war, he said "the kind of posture that the respective armed forces are taking creates a very unstable and very dangerous situation."

Mr. Guéhenno also voiced concern about the safety of UN workers in the area. "We now have had eight peacekeepers who have had to be evacuated by road in very difficult circumstances" because flights have been suspended, he said. "So we have troop contributing countries who – because of their commitment to peace and security – are putting their people at some risk."

A peacekeeping mission, he stressed, "can support the peace process – it can not substitute for it."

Absent a commitment to by Ethiopia and Eritrea, "we can not enforce a peace between those two countries," he said.

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