The top United Nations peacekeeping official today confirmed the establishment of a Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) in Ethiopia and Eritrea along the countries' common border.
Briefing the UN Security Council on developments in the region, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno called the TSZ's establishment, which was announced yesterday, an "important milestone in the peace process."
The two most pressing challenges now facing Eritrea and the international community were the restoration of Eritrean civil administration and the return of displaced persons to the TSZ, he said, noting that Eritrea was planning for the return of approximately 300,000 persons to the Zone within the next six to eight weeks. In that context, he pointed out the threat posed by the large quantities of landmines and unexploded ordnance in the areas of return. Limited demining activities were currently underway and mine awareness activities had been initiated throughout the area.
The UN Mission in both countries (UNMEE) continued to work with the parties to resolve a number of outstanding issues, including requests that the southern boundary of the TSZ be adjusted, Mr. Guéhenno said. In that respect, he expressed UNMEE's regret that Ethiopia had not communicated the full nature of its redeployment plans in the Irob area.
The Under-Secretary-General stressed that the TSZ was temporary in nature and did not prejudge the final status of contested areas, which would be decided by the neutral Boundary Commission jointly set up by both countries.