The political impasse over marking a border between Eritrea and Ethiopia, following their 1998-2000 war, is a source of instability in the Horn of Africa, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says.
"I am concerned that a relatively minor incident, even one of miscalculation, could degenerate into a very serious situation, which no one would wish for and which would be tragic for all concerned," he says in a report to the Security Council on the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).
His Special Envoy Lloyd Axworthy, Special Representative Legwaila Joseph Legwaila and the whole mission, whose current mandate ends on 30 September, are ready to work with both governments to clarify issues, resolve differences and prevent incidents in the border area peacefully, he says.
Eritrea's recent indication that it will engage UNMEE constructively to resolve any differences is welcome, Mr. Annan says, but Ethiopia's continued "opposition to the demarcation process in conformity with the final and binding decision of the Boundary Commission" is a source of deep concern.
"It is worth reminding the parties, and in particular Ethiopia, that the two Governments themselves entrusted the Boundary Commission with the entire demarcation process, drew up its mandate and selected its Commissioners," he says.
With four years having passed since the end of hostilities, it is time for the parties to demonstrate flexibility and realize, "and, perhaps, explain to their peoples, that sober choices will have to be made in order to end the current stalemate," Mr. Annan says.