- A day after the UN Security Council threatened possible sanctions against Eritrea and Ethiopia, the UN's peacekeeping mission there reported that the military situation "remains tense". Ethiopian troops had earlier briefly "violated a separation zone" between the two countries. The neighbours defy UN orders to reverse troop movements, which could lead to sanctions.
Troop movements had been observed on both the Ethiopian and Eritrean sides of the border and the ban imposed by the Eritrean government on UN helicopters was still in place, UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) spokeswoman Gail Bindley-Taylor-Sainte told a news briefing late yesterday.
She said Ethiopian troops over the weekend occupied Point 885, a mountain peak in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) that UNMEE vacated after the Eritrean helicopter ban. UNMEE asked the Ethiopians to leave and they moved out on Wednesday.
"Any violation of the Temporary Security Zone is of concern to us, it does not matter how tiny it may be," Ms Bindley-Taylor-Sainte said. "Any violation of the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone is of the utmost importance to UNMEE because it directly affects our mandate, which is to monitor and verify the redeployment of the troops of both parties and to maintain the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone."
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council threatened actions - which could include sanctions - if, in the case of Eritrea, it does not immediately rescind its ban on UN helicopter and aircraft flights in its airspace, and against both parties if they do not reverse their military build up.
It also demanded that Ethiopia accept the agreed-upon Boundary Commission's final and binding decisions concerning the demarcation of the border between the two countries, but did not threaten with sanctions on this issue. The Council demanded that both parties return to their December 2004 levels of troop deployment within 30 days, refraining from threats or the use of force.
Last month, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that the tense situation on the Eritrean-Ethiopian border could lead to another round of "devastating hostilities." Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a bloody border war from 1998 to 2000, but have yet to normalise ties and implement the 2000 Algiers peace agreement.
The Eritrean flight ban has forced UNMEE to evacuate 18 of its posts in the security zone and "endangered peacekeepers" who need to be evacuated for medical treatment, "forcing them to take the long land route," according to the UN.
The Eritrean government today sharply criticised the latest UN Security Council resolution, describing it as "deplorable" and "lopsided". Asmara in particular criticises that Ethiopia is not threatened with sanctions for failing to implement the border ruling it had agreed to in the Algeris peace plan.
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