As tensions rise between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Annan urges both to show restraint

As tensions rise between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Annan urges both to show restraint

Tensions are rising between the formerly warring countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea, according to a new report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who urges both sides to exercise restraint and pursue peace.

In his report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General says that while the situation in the temporary buffer area between the two countries remains calm, during the past few months "tensions have risen considerably in the mission area, with each of the two parties accusing the other of building up militarily."

He rejects allegations by both sides of "appeasement" on the part of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). "While Eritrea's lack of cooperation in providing UNMEE with information on its militia and police and in allowing unrestricted freedom of movement in the areas adjacent to the Temporary Security Zone is regrettable, it is important to stress that the Mission, on the best information available, has found no evidence of any significant Eritrean military build-up."

In addition, the Secretary-General stresses that UNMEE must be able to move freely in the area in order to investigate allegations and allay suspicions. He adds that the absence of mutual confidence between the two countries creates a potentially volatile situation. "When each suspects the worst of the other, relatively small incidents can quickly lead to an otherwise avoidable escalation," he warns.

"I once again appeal to Eritrea to cooperate fully with UNMEE, including by granting it freedom of movement in the adjacent areas north of the Temporary Security Zone, so that Ethiopia and, indeed, the Security Council can be reassured that Eritrea has no intentions other than implementing in full their obligations under the peace process," Mr. Annan states. "At the same time, I urge both parties to exercise restraint, as the recent public allegations of major military preparations, and further escalation of rhetoric that accompanied them, do not help the cause of peace."

The Security Council set up UNMEE in July 2000 to maintain liaison with the parties and establish the mechanism for verifying the ceasefire. In September of that year, the Council authorized the deployment of up to 4,200 UNMEE military personnel to monitor the cessation of hostilities and assist in ensuring the observance of security commitments.