Eritrea reopens road to UN peacekeepers – a ‘new page’ in relations

13 August 2004

Eritrea has reopened a major road to traffic by United Nations peacekeepers, declaring a “new page” in its relations with the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) charged with monitoring the ceasefire and ensuring observance of security commitments after the two countries fought a two-year border war.

UNMEE regarded the move as “a sign of good faith” by Eritrea, which earlier this year imposed restrictions on movements on the Asmara-Keren-Barentu road north of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ), spokesperson Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte told a news briefing yesterday in the Eritrean capital of Asmara.

“I would say at this point for us the relationship looks positive,” she said. The Security Council had appealed to Eritrea to give UNMEE “the freedom of movement it needs to carry out its mandate.”

Ms. Bindley-Taylor Sainte said that, as far as she knew, the Eritrean Government had not imposed any conditions.

“I think the Force Commander was very pleased that the road has been reopened and what he was told was that this was a new page in relations with the Eritrean Government and he has accepted that and expects that we will put all the other things on the back burner for the time being and move ahead,” she added.

Eritrea had declared it was carrying out “investigations” but she said that, as she understood it, UNMEE had not had any results of such an investigation.

Fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia erupted in May 1998 as a result of a border dispute, with a Cessation of Hostilities agreement finally being signed in Algiers on 18 June 2000. The same year the Security Council established UNMEE, comprising “political, military, public information, mine action and administrative components,” with a maximum military strength of 4,200 troops.


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