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Security Council calls for speedy release of all remaining POWs in Ethiopia, Eritrea

Security Council calls for speedy release of all remaining POWs in Ethiopia, Eritrea

Underlining the need for confidence-building measures between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Security Council today called on both countries for the speedy and unconditional release of all remaining prisoners of war and all others detained as a result of the armed conflict.

In a statement read by the President of the 15-member body, Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul of Mauritius, the Council welcomed the repatriation yesterday of 25 Ethiopian prisoners of war from Eritrea under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross and encouraged authorities on both sides "to afford humane treatment, without discrimination, to each other's nationals and persons of each other's origins within their respective territories."

The Council, noting that the situation in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) - the buffer area between the two countries - had remained calm and that the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) had proved allegations concerning military build-up in the TSZ to be unfounded, reiterated its call on Eritrea to disclose the number, strength and disposition of its militia and police inside the area.

The statement noted that Eritrea had begun to allow UNMEE to visit some locations in the adjacent area north of the TSZ and called again on that country to grant the Mission the full freedom of movement it required for monitoring Eritrea's redeployed forces. The Council further called on Eritrea to conclude the status-of-forces agreement with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, noting that the model status-of-forces agreement as set out in its resolution 1320 was in effect.

Through its President, the Council expressed its regret that there had been no progress regarding the establishment of a direct high-altitude flight route for UNMEE between Asmara, Eritrea, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and called on the parties to work with the Secretary-General's top official in the region "to settle the issue for the mutual benefit of all."

The Council also called on Member States to provide further support to the peace process and to alleviate the difficult humanitarian situation, and confirmed its intention to send a mission to the two countries next month.