- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the UN Security Council make another working trip to Ethiopia and Eritrea to assure the two governments of its support for their peace process. He also suggested that the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission there be extended until mid-September.
The two Horn of Africa countries fought a bitter battle in a boundary dispute, but reached a peace agreement in June 2000. The implementation of this peace has however been obstructed by the governments in Addis Ababa and Asmara, causing constant concerns over the possibility of renewed warfare.
In his latest report to the UN Security Council, Mr Annan recalls that it had visited both countries in February 2002, just before the Boundary Commission ruled in April of that year on delimiting the border between them, to show that it would support the peace process and the demarcation.
This demarcation has however yet to be completed as Ethiopia still refuses to accept the border as defined by the Boundary Commission and Eritrea occasionally hinders the free movement of UN peacekeepers. The Security Council thus now should "find it opportune to reaffirm and demonstrate its commitment by returning to Eritrea and Ethiopia," Mr Annan says in his recommendations.
Despite Eritrean and Ethiopian obstructions, the diplomatic UN leader "commends" these governments on "their commitment to the agreement," enabling the 3,344-strong UN peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) to maintain the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ).
Because of its role as a stabilising force, "I recommend that the mandate of UNMEE be extended for an additional period of six months, until 15 September," he says. UNMEE officials on several occasions have expressed their frustrations on the many obstructions to their work, but the UN nevertheless sees their deployment as a guarantee to avoid yet another bloody war between the two impoverished neighbours.
Mr Annan in his report however expresses misgivings about new construction undertaken "in areas that were awarded to Eritrea, which could be interpreted as an effort to create facts on the ground." This is among the very few critical remarks in the UN Secretary-General's report.
- I note with concern statements to the effect that it is not possible to implement the Boundary Commission's decision as is, Mr Annan writes. "I wish to reiterate the importance for the parties to accept the demarcation of the boundary in accordance with the Commission's instructions," he adds.
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