Eritrean troops have moved some 1,500 troops and 14 tanks into the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) separating the East African country from Ethiopia in “a major breach” of the ceasefire that ended the two-year border war between the two from 1998-2000, the United Nations reported today.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Eritrea to withdraw its troops from the Zone immediately. The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) reported that the Eritrean forces took over one of its checkpoints in Sector West.
Overseeing the ceasefire between the two countries signed in Algiers in 2000, UNMEE currently fields nearly 2,300 military personnel to assist in ensuring the observance of the security commitments agreed by the parties and monitor the positions of forces on both sides.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Annan voiced deep concern at the incursion. “This development constitutes a major breach of the ceasefire and the integrity of the TSZ,” the statement said. “It could seriously jeopardize the peace process and undermine the Algiers Agreements between Ethiopia and Eritrea, with potential consequences for the wider region.
“The Secretary-General urges the Government of Eritrea to withdraw its troops from the Zone immediately, and to cooperate with the United Nations in restoring the ceasefire arrangements,” it added.
Last year Eritrea restricted UNMEE’s use of helicopters, impeding its ability to monitor 50 to 55 per cent of the area on the Eritrean side within the TSZ.
In his latest report last month on the conflict, Mr. Annan repeated concerns that Ethiopia had not accepted the binding decisions of the Boundary Commission demarcating the lines that had caused the war, and that Eritrea refused to continue to cooperate with the body.