The top United Nations officials travelling to the Horn of Africa at the urgent request of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to defuse the crisis caused when Eritrea requested the pullout of peacekeeping personnel of certain nationalities have arrived in the capital of that country, Asmara.
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno and the UN Military Advisor Lt. Gen. Radhir Kumar Mehta are visiting both Ethiopia and Eritrea to review and assess the situation on the ground, and ascertain what steps can be taken to improve the situation, according to a UN spokesman.
This morning, before leaving for Eritrea, both Mr. Guéhenno and Mr. Mehta met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
They arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Sunday and conducted a series of meetings and briefings with the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and various officials.
Mr. Guéhenno reported that UNMEE is facing a very difficult situation and needs the current crisis to be resolved, bearing in mind the UN's concern to keep the international character of the peacekeeping mission intact, the spokesman said.
The UN has already conveyed a message to the Eritrean authorities that it cannot accept their request for a pullout, within 10 days from 6 December, by UNMEE staff who originate from the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia.
Both the Secretary-General and the Security Council have demanded that Eritrea rescind its request, which they said was inconsistent with the fundamental principle of the universality of peacekeeping operations, which represent the whole of the international community.
The Council and the Secretary-General also demanded that Eritrea reverse its ban on air flights and lift all restrictions imposed on UNMEE’s operations as called for by the Council’s 23 November resolution on the matter.
That resolution threatened actions, possibly including sanctions, against Eritrea and Ethiopia if, in the case of Eritrea, it does not immediately rescind its flight ban, and against both parties if they do not reverse their military build-up.