Annan calls on Eritrea to lift new restrictions on UN peacekeeping mission

5 October 2005

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged the Government of Eritrea to reverse immediately its decision to restrict all types of helicopter flights by the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) within Eritrean air space.

Stressing that freedom of movement is a fundamental principle of all peacekeeping missions, a spokesman for Mr. Annan said the measures could heighten tensions and would seriously limit UNMEE's operational capacity to carry out its peacekeeping work.

"This development could exacerbate the existing suspicions at the border area and create instability," Stephane Dujarric told a press briefing in New York. "The restriction will also negatively affect the security of UNMEE personnel and their operations."

Mr. Annan learned of the Eritrean decision yesterday and, "in view of the seriousness of the matter," convened a meeting of the Security Council, according to the spokesman.

Following closed-door talks, the Council went into a formal meeting and, in a presidential statement, urged Eritrea to reverse its decision.

The Secretary-General echoed this call, as well as the Council's assertion that both parties must show maximum restraint.

"The Secretary-General insists on the urgent necessity to bring the peace process to a conclusion by fully implementing the Algiers Agreements and the 2002 decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission and by engaging in political dialogue," Mr. Dujarric said.

Last month the Council extended the five-year-old UNMEE's mandate to monitor the Temporary Security Zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea until mid-March.


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