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Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Remains Tense, says UN

Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Remains Tense, UN Mission Reports

The military situation along the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, remained tense and potentially volatile during the past week and the Eritrean ban on United Nations helicopter flights has again complicated the evacuation of injured personnel, according to the latest update from the UN peacekeeping mission.

“A large number of troop movements have been noticed on both the Ethiopian and Eritrean sides,” UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea's (UNMEE)spokeswoman Gail Bindley-Taylor-Sainte said of the situation in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between the two countries, which fought a bitter border war from 1998 to 2000.

Three Jordanian UN soldiers who were critically injured in a vehicle accident had to be evacuated by road to Eritrea’s capital of Asmara as the Eritrean authorities did not respond to the request for aerial medical evacuation. The patients, one of whom was critical, were on the road for 18 hours before medical assistance could be provided.

“This is the fourth time since the helicopter ban that a request for aerial medical evacuation on humanitarian grounds did not get a response from the Eritrean authorities,” Ms. Bindley-Taylor-Sainte told a news briefing.

Both the Security Council and Secretary-General Kofi Annan have called on Eritrea to lift the ban, which has forced UNMEE to evacuate 18 of its posts in the TSZ.

Mr. Annan has warned that the situation could lead to another round of “devastating hostilities,” and while calling for lifting the Eritrean ban, he has also urged the Council to address the underlying causes of the stalemate in the peace process between the two countries, including Ethiopia's opposition to significant parts of an agreed Boundary Commission's binding demarcation decisions.

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