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Ethiopia and Eritrea reach new agreements at UN-sponsored meeting in Nairobi

Ethiopia and Eritrea reach new agreements at UN-sponsored meeting in Nairobi

A United Nations meeting drawing senior military officials from Ethiopia and Eritrea has produced agreement on a number of measures which the formerly warring countries will take as they pursue the path of peace, according to the UN peacekeeping mission in the region.

The meeting of the Military Coordination Commission (MCC) -- one of the main instruments for addressing the concerns of Eritrea and Ethiopia -- was held yesterday as part of the ongoing process of solidifying peace between the two countries. During their talks, the parties agreed to establish sector-level MCCs to address local security and military concerns. These MCCs will be chaired by the three sector commanders of the UN's 4,200-strong peacekeeping force, which is known as UNMEE, and attended by representatives of the two parties and the OAU.

Agreement was also reached on the need to develop a cooperative mechanism to handle the unburied remains of those who were killed in action during the conflict. UNMEE was tasked with developing a draft protocol regarding this future mechanism, which is to be composed of representatives of Eritrea, Ethiopia, the OAU and UNMEE, and based on the general agreement that bodies would be identified and returned to their country of origin, regardless of where they now lie.

The Nairobi meeting was chaired by UNMEE Force Commander Major-General Patrick Cammaert, who updated the parties on the mission's progress in establishing the northern and southern boundaries of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) -- a buffer area between the two forces which spans more than 900-kilometres. He emphasized that a precise and common understanding of the boundaries of the TSZ was necessary for operational clarity and for addressing the needs of civilians who are returning to their homes and villages.

The MCC also discussed UNMEE's efforts to compile information on landmines. The Chairman explained that UNMEE was gathering information from Ethiopian local engineering commanders, while the mission's own engineers continued to demine and mark dangerous areas.

The Security Council created UNMEE in July 2000 after Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a cessation of hostilities agreement ending their two-year dispute.