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Despite setbacks, UN mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia is making progress: Annan

Despite setbacks, UN mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia is making progress: Annan

Despite difficulties over the past year, the United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) is making progress in helping to maintain peace between the two countries, according to a just released report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who recommends an extension of the operation's mandate through 15 March 2002.

"The Mission's approach of steadily addressing the problems of the implementation of the peace process has yielded results," the Secretary-General writes in his report on UNMEE to the Security Council.

Flagging UNMEE's submission of a final map to both sides regarding the Temporary Security Zone set up in April 2001, Mr. Annan says the Zone has now become operational. "While the two Governments have not formally accepted the map, their de facto respect for its parameters on the ground augurs well," he writes. "For the first time in three years, the armies of Ethiopia and Eritrea have been fully separated and some of their soldiers are beginning to return home."

Most internally displaced people have also been able to return to their homes inside the Zone, where they have resumed ploughing their fields and rebuilding their lives, the Secretary-General says. "The commitment to peace demonstrated by the parties has made this possible, and the same commitment must carry Ethiopia and Eritrea forward to the definitive resolution of their border dispute," he writes.

The report calls for both Governments to grant UNMEE "unimpeded and unconditional freedom of movement," and to establish direct high altitude flights between Asmara and Addis Ababa. The parties are also urged to complete the release of prisoners of war and to allow nationals of both countries to remain, without any discrimination, in the locations where they have decided to settle.

To the international community, Mr. Annan issues an appeal for funds to help remedy the precarious humanitarian conditions prevailing in both countries, in particular the lack of food security and the need for emergency relief assistance.

On the problem of landmines, which the report calls a "major threat to UNMEE and the civilian population," the Secretary-General says the generous contributions from Member States to a Trust Fund for mine action work were appreciated, but that more money was needed. "Underfunding seriously hinders the United Nations capacity to train, equip and deploy humanitarian demining personnel with appropriate supervision," he writes, also urging for donations to support the Boundary Commission working to demarcate the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.