The United Nations peacekeeping mission monitoring the ceasefire between Ethiopia and Eritrea today called on both sides to show maximum restraint after a shooting incident in the border area where the two countries fought a two-year war that ended in 2000.
Just last month Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned in a report to the Security Council that continuing tensions between the two, the failure to resolve their longstanding boundary dispute and the military build-up along their common border were causes for serious concern.
The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) reported that its Indian Battalion Post and Military Observer Team Site at Tsorena inside the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) on the Eritrea side heard firing sounds in the general direction of Gergera, southeast of Tsorena yesterday.
The Team Site and post patrol could not go to the scene due to permanent restriction on access to the area, but UNMEE has been in contact with both parties, who recognised that the incident had occurred, and is investigating it.
The Mission recalled an earlier statement by Mr. Ban in October urging both parties to “exercise utmost restraint, maintain their commitment to the Algiers Agreements,” which ended the border war.
In his report last month, Mr. Ban called on the two parties to find common ground to allow the Boundary Commission set up under the ceasefire to proceed with the demarcation of the border.
The Commission handed down a final and binding decision in 2002 but he noted that although Ethiopia says it has accepted the decision without preconditions, it continues to assert that security conditions for demarcation of the border do not exist.
He added that the situation remained tense, noting that Eritrea has moved in more than 2,500 troops and heavy military equipment into the TSZ, while both countries conducted military exercises along the border. In addition, Eritrean restrictions on UN peacekeepers and helicopter flights continue. He called on Eritrea to withdraw its forces and military equipment from the TSZ and to lift its restrictions on UNMEE.
UNMEE currently fields 1,676 military personnel, including 1,464 troops and 212 military observers, out of a total 4,200 mandated by the Security Council resolution that set up the mission in 2000. The Council cut back the troop strength in January, citing frustration with the lack of progress made by either country.