Reiterating its condemnation of Eritrea’s request last week for the pullout of United Nations personnel of specified nationalities, as well as its earlier ban on peacekeeping flights, the Security Council today decided to temporarily relocate some military and civilian staff now in that country to Ethiopia for their safety.
In a statement read out at a formal meeting by its President, Emyr Parry Jones of the United Kingdom, the Council said that the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) intends, however, to maintain a military presence while it determines its future strategies, including “the different military options available.”
“The Security Council strongly condemns Eritrea’s unacceptable actions and restrictions on UNMEE, which have drastically reduced any meaningful operational capacity for the mission and will have, if they are sustained, implications for UNMEE’s future,” Mr. Jones Parry said.
The Council recalled its demand that Eritrea reverse those restrictions and provide the mission with the access assistance, support and protection required for the performance of its duties.
The Council’s statement followed a closed-door briefing on the situation by Jane Holl-Lute, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan present.
Following recent deliberations on the issue, the UN had conveyed a message to the Eritrean authorities that it could not accept their request for a pullout, within 10 days, by staff of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) who originate from the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia.
Both the Secretary-General and the Security Council said the request is inconsistent with the fundamental principle of the universality of the peacekeeping operation representing the whole of the international community.
At that time, both 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.
The military situation in the Temporary Security Zone and adjacent areas remains tense and potentially volatile, UNMEE reported Monday. Troop movements have been noticed on both sides of the border.
UNMEE also said that about 180 people would be affected by Eritrea’s request for the pullout of the nationalities specified, which would encompass 91 military observers, about 10 UN Volunteers and 70 international civilian staff members.
The UNMEE Force Commander noted that that out of a total of 44 troop contributing countries, 18 have been asked to go.
Tensions remain between Ethiopia and Eritrea due to an unresolved border dispute that erupted in war between 1998 and 2000.
In today’s resolution, the Security Council reiterated its support for the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission’s delimitation decision, urging its implementation.