The United Nations Security Council today decided not to extend the arms embargo against of Ethiopia and Eritrea beyond 16 May - one year after the sanctions had been imposed on the parties.
The Council urged the two sides to redirect their efforts "from weapons procurement and other military activities towards the reconstruction and development of both economies, and regional reconciliation, with a view to achieving stability in the Horn of Africa," according to a statement read out in an open meeting by Ambassador James Cunningham of the United States, which currently holds the Council's rotating presidency.
The Council also stressed that the parties must provide free movement and access for the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and its supplies without restrictions, including through the temporary security zone (TSZ) and adjacent areas. That zone, which aims to separate the parties' armed forces, "must be completely demilitarized," the presidential statement said. It added that civilians inside the area should be supported by an "appropriate but limited" number of Eritrean civilian militia and police.
In addition, the Council called for the immediate establishment of a secure air corridor between the Ethiopian and Eritrean capitals. It urged both nations to cooperate fully and expeditiously with UNMEE, to abide scrupulously by their agreements, and to "exercise restraint in their public statements."
Calling on the two countries to continue to facilitate mine action in coordination with the UN, the Council encouraged them "to exercise caution in returning civilians to the TSZ before it has become adequately demined."
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that nearly 1,000 Eritrean refugees had been repatriated on Saturday from the neighbouring Sudan as part of a major operation. A spokesman for the agency told reporters in Geneva that the returnees were receiving cash assistance, food and household supplies "to help them settle back into communities which some of them left during last year's conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia."
Some of the roughly 174,000 Eritrean refugees in camps in the Sudan have spent more than 30 years in exile, spokesman Kris Janowski said.