17 November 2000


Press Release
SC/6954



‘WE HAVE ENTERED PERIOD OF HIGHER STAKES, INTENSIFIED SCRUTINY’, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL

20001117

As Council Reviews Situation between Eritrea, Ethiopia

Addressing the Security Council this afternoon on the situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told members the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) held great promise for the countries and peoples involved, for Africa, and for peacekeeping in general. “We must get it right”, he stressed.

He said the beginning of any mission was a very sensitive time. The steps taken by the Organization sent signals about “our intentions, our effectiveness and most of all our resolve”. At the same time, the steps taken by the parties to the conflict also offered indications about their willingness to cooperate, and about the level of trust and political will.

“We have entered a period of higher stakes and intensified scrutiny of our actions”, he remarked. “The people of Eritrea and Ethiopia, and many others beyond their borders, are counting on us to help. Together, let us rise to this challenge.”

He underscored that the deployment of the Mission was designed to help maintain peace between the two countries. “We must sustain this momentum, not least to gain additional support from the international community for the development needs of both countries.”

Jozias van Aartsen, President of the Council and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, speaking in his national capacity, said he had impressed upon the representatives of both Ethiopia and Eritrea that UNMEE could only provide a breathing space to facilitate a resolution of their differences. It could not be considered as the solution to the conflict itself.

Nevertheless, he warned, there was the possibility that both parties might get used to UNMEE’s presence and become dependent on it, in the same way that the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) now seemed indispensable to Cyprus.

To give impetus to the peace process, he said he had proposed the establishment of a Group of Friends of the Peace Process. To help remedy the deep distrust between the two States, he had proposed five confidence-building


Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6954 4227th Meeting (PM) 17 November 2000

measures. Agreement to those measures would give the international community more confidence that the peace process was being taken seriously. The measures would also have a positive effect on the renewal of UNMEE’s mandate, which was dependent on progress in the negotiations, and would begin to dispel mutual distrust.

The representative of the United States said a credible United Nations presence would serve as a confidence-building measure that would promote trust and bolster peace negotiations. An agreement on the delimitation and demarcation of the common border was also a critical component to a final peace agreement. That element would be essential if the peace between the two neighbours was to be self- sustaining and beneficial to the people of both countries.

He went on to say that while the search for improved bilateral relations might continue in perpetuity, the presence of United Nations peacekeepers in Ethiopia and Eritrea should not. The Council must work to ensure that peacekeepers were the catalyst for progress, and not an excuse for procrastination.

The representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Bangladesh, Argentina, China, Russian Federation, Jamaica, Namibia, Malaysia, Mali, and Ukraine also made statements.

The meeting, which began at 12:33 p.m., was adjourned at 1:44 p.m.



Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6954 4227th Meeting (PM) 17 November 2000

Council Work Programme

When the Security Council met this afternoon it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Report of Secretary-General

The present report of the Secretary-General (document S/2000/879) provides an update on political and humanitarian developments since his last report of 9 August (S/2000/785). It also describes the status of the deployment of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), as authorized by the Security Council in resolution 1312 (2000) of 31 July.

The Secretary-General says that resumed proximity talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea on 30 May led to the signing of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities between the two countries on 18 June. Those talks had also intended to resolve the practical aspects of the implementation of the peace plan. The plan was to begin with the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from positions taken by them since 6 February 1999 and end with the settlement of the border dispute through delimitation and demarcation and, if necessary, through arbitration. At Ethiopia's request, however, and with Eritrea's consent, it had been agreed to first finalize a cessation of hostilities agreement and then negotiate and finalize a second agreement on the other outstanding issues.

The Secretary-General states that the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is assessing the best timing for the resumption of the proximity talks under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), with due consideration to progress in the deployment of UNMEE.

Addressing humanitarian developments in Ethiopia, the Secretary-General states that in January the Ethiopian Government and the United Nations country team estimated that 349,837 people had been displaced as a result of the conflict in the northern regions of Tigray and Afar. Since the signing of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, however, the situation has changed significantly for those internally displaced persons (IDPs), and many of them have been able to return to their places of origin. According to the Government of Ethiopia, approximately 30 per cent of them have started rebuilding their lives in their hometowns since August.

According to the report, the IDPs need assistance in practically all sectors, as most of them lost their possessions in the conflict. Their return is a cause for major concern because a number of areas of return are located in former war zones and are, in many cases, heavily mined. The presence of mines also negatively affects the implementation of development assistance programmes. The complex emergency situation in Ethiopia is further exacerbated by the drought, which has left over 10 million people in need of emergency food assistance, including over 1.4 million children under the age of 5. People are still dying of drought-related illnesses, and it is therefore imperative to deliver non-food items such as medicine, water and sanitation, the Secretary-General stresses.

In support of the Ethiopian Government's appeal in January, the United Nations country team in Ethiopia issued a relief action plan for IDPs requesting $27.5 million in combined food and non-food assistance. As of June, donor response to that request totalled $19.7 million. Eighty per cent of the food requirements were met, but only 22 per cent of the non-food items were funded. The non-food activities include construction and rehabilitation of water points, emergency education assistance, provision of medical supplies, distribution of shelter materials and mine risk education.

Turning to the humanitarian situation in Eritrea, the report says that in the past three months some 400,000 IDPs returned to their areas of origin, located in the accessible and relatively safe parts of the administrative zones bordering Ethiopia. Furthermore, the repatriation of Eritrean refugees from the Sudan has continued on a weekly basis. Of 94,000 refugees, a total of 23,881 have returned under this repatriation operation, while an estimated 25,000 have done so spontaneously.

The Secretary-General says that many of the returnees will continue to need humanitarian assistance. Food aid on an ongoing basis, for example, will be required. There is also a need to re-establish basic infrastructure and social services in these areas of return. It is equally essential to support income- generating and productive capacities. There are also still over 200,000 IDPs in camps and other settlements in the northern Red Sea, Gash Barka and Debub zones. Those persons cannot return to their original homes because of security concerns or the lack of resources to re-establish their lives. As long as they remain in camps, they will continue to require a wide array of vital humanitarian services.

In addition, continues the Secretary-General, a substantial number of IDPs continue to be accommodated in host communities. The plight of those persons and their host families requires continued attention from the humanitarian community. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that war and drought have affected most of the fertile agricultural areas.

Over the past few months, the Secretary-General continues, an increasing number of humanitarian agencies have arrived in Eritrea to assist the Government in providing emergency relief assistance to populations in need. On 10 June, the Eritrean Government issued a new appeal for $183 million for emergency humanitarian assistance to some 1.6 million people affected by the war and drought, as well as to the urban poor and affected host communities. The appeal is to cover the period until the end of the year.

In response to the Government appeal, the report says, the United Nations country team in Eritrea issued a revised United Nations appeal in July. The appeal has a total value of $87.3 million and addresses the priority humanitarian needs of over 1 million war-affected Eritreans. The donor response to the food aid component of the revised United Nations country team appeal has been very positive so far. Regrettably, donor pledges and contributions have been less than expected for other critical interventions in sectors such as health, nutrition, water and sanitation, social services and agriculture.

Addressing the status of UNMEE, the Secretary-General says that active preparations have continued for the deployment of both the first group of 100 military observers and the necessary civilian support staff to Ethiopia and Eritrea. The United Nations military liaison officers, who were dispatched to Addis Ababa and Asmara at the outset of the Mission, have undertaken, in close cooperation with the parties, field visits to military positions of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and established contacts with key civilian and military authorities.

Accompanied by the Mission logistics team, the Secretary-General states that United Nations liaison officers have also completed a survey of potential deployment areas in both countries. As a result, locations for liaison functions with Ethiopian and Eritrean military headquarters at the front positions have been identified, and a deployment timetable for military observers has been prepared. The adoption of Council resolution 1320 (2000) authorized the deployment of Phase III of the Mission. The draft status-of-forces agreements to be concluded between the United Nations and Ethiopia and Eritrea, respectively, were transmitted to the two Governments.

The Secretary-General goes on to say that the logistical build-up for the new Mission has also continued, with the arrival of supplies and equipment from the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy. The opening of direct air and road corridors between Ethiopia and Eritrea for the use of United Nations flights and convoys will be of critical importance to Mission operations, and the Organization is actively pursuing that issue. The Organization has also started dispatching the necessary civilian support staff, as envisaged in resolution 1312 (2000). To date, a total of 37 civilian support personnel have arrived in the Mission area. As a result of those efforts, UNMEE has already established functioning offices in Addis Ababa and Asmara.

According to the Secretary-General, the United Nations is launching a multi- component mine action programme to assist the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea. To this end, a Mine Action Coordination Office is being established within the UNMEE structure. The purpose of the Office is to record and process information related to mines and unexploded ordnance, set priorities for mine action, assign tasks to operators and supervise their activities.

The report goes on to stress that both the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities and resolution 1312 (2000) envisage a crucial role for the parties' armed forces in mine clearance. That requires that the two countries proceed with mine lifting as soon as possible and carry out that exercise in a coordinated manner, while complying with international standards for humanitarian mine clearance. Any postponement in mine clearance would affect the deployment of United Nations military observers and troops and the early establishment of the temporary security zone.

The Ethiopian and Eritrean Governments have shown commitment to ensuring the implementation of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, notes the Secretary- General. Since the establishment of UNMEE, the United Nations has pursued every effort to expedite the deployment of the first group of military observers and the necessary civilian support staff to Ethiopia and Eritrea, in anticipation of the peacekeeping operation authorized by the Council.

The Secretary-General also says that he counts on the parties to continue to cooperate closely with the Mission in the implementation of its mandate, particularly in the establishment of the temporary security zone, and in mine clearance, which is essential for UNMEE to commence its work in the relevant zones. He calls on all Member States which have the capacity to do so to provide the Mission with all the military personnel, equipment and other resources necessary for the fulfilment of its mandate.

While security conditions in contested zones have improved, the Secretary- General notes that the humanitarian situation is still a cause for concern. Donor pledges and contributions for critical interventions in key sectors have fallen short of expectations so far. He urges the international donor community to respond generously to the United Nations country team requests for humanitarian assistance in the two countries. He also counts on both Governments to continue to exercise every restraint in order to prevent any further deterioration of the humanitarian and human rights situation.

In conclusion, the Secretary-General expresses concern at the continuing mutual accusations of human rights abuses by the two countries even after the signing of the Agreement. He has therefore asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide him with recommendations on how the Organization might be of assistance in addressing pressing human rights issues. After discussing this matter with both parties, he intends to establish a small component within UNMEE to follow human rights issues.

Statements

KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General, said UNMEE held great promise for the countries and peoples involved, for Africa, and for peacekeeping in general. “We must get it right”, he stressed. His special representative for Ethiopia and Eritrea, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, had also taken up his functions in the Mission area, and had already met the Ethiopian Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and other senior Government officials. Yesterday, Mr. Legwaila arrived in Asmara and planned to have similar contacts with the Government of Eritrea. The Secretary- General stated that he had also appointed two Deputy Special Representatives: Cheikh-Tidiane Gaye and Ian Martin. They would reside full time in Addis Ababa and Asmara respectively, and would take up their posts shortly.

He said military deployment was also proceeding on schedule. As of today, some 120 United Nations military observers had been deployed to the two countries and the first troops would begin to arrive soon. With the continued cooperation of the two parties, the deployment of UNMEE was expected to be completed by early next year, up to an authorized strength of 4,200 troops, which included up to 220 military observers. Military teams from several troop-contributing countries –- Canada, Denmark, Jordan, Kenya, Netherlands and Slovakia -- had already undertaken reconnaissance missions for their deployments.

He said the situation on the ground appeared to have stabilized in recent weeks. But humanitarian conditions in both countries were still a source of concern. In Eritrea there were more than 300,000 IDPs, while there were some 350,000 in Ethiopia. The most critical obstacle to their safe return and the resumption of normal life was the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance areas along the border. It was therefore imperative to ensure early demining and to conduct mine-awareness programmes in those areas.

Consultations with both Governments on the status-of-force agreements were continuing, and it was hoped that those would be concluded as soon as possible. The ceasefire had held since the signing of an agreement in June. So far both parties had shown a commitment to implement that document.

He said the deployment of the Mission was designed to help maintain peace between the two countries. “We must sustain this momentum, not least to gain additional support from the international community for the development needs of both countries. Close coordination between UNMEE and the humanitarian agencies will be essential, and for that reason a system of civil-military liaison should be established as soon as possible.”

He trusted that both parties would continue to cooperate with the mediators to the proximity talks, with a view to resolving the outstanding issues and achieving a comprehensive settlement. The beginning of any peacekeeping mission was a very sensitive time. The steps taken by the Organization sent signals about “our intentions, our effectiveness and most of all our resolve”, he said. At the same time, the steps taken by the parties also offered indications about their willingness to cooperate, and about the level of trust and political will. “We have entered a period of higher stakes and intensified scrutiny of our actions”, he said. “The people of Eritrea and Ethiopia, and many others beyond their borders are counting on us to help. Together let us rise to this challenge.”

JOZIAS VAN AARTSEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said the Dutch/Canadian battalion of UNMEE would arrive in the area by mid-December. He had visited the two countries last week and met Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki, as well as their respective Foreign Ministers.

He said he had the impression that both parties had a genuine desire for peace and were eager to start reconstruction and development. Yet, at the same time, mutual distrust remained as deep as ever, causing the peace process to move very slowly.

He said he had impressed upon the representatives of both States that UNMEE could only provide a breathing space to facilitate a resolution of their differences. It could not be considered as the solution to the conflict itself. Nevertheless, there was the possibility that both parties might get used to UNMEE’s presence and become dependent on it, in the same way that the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) now seemed indispensable to Cyprus.

To give impetus to the peace process, he said he had proposed the establishment of a Group of Friends of the Peace Process. To help remedy the distrust between the two States, he had proposed five confidence-building measures. Agreement to those measures would give the international community more confidence that the peace process was being taken seriously. The measures would also have a positive effect on the renewal of UNMEE’s mandate, which was dependent on progress in the negotiations.

He said the confidence-building measures were: reciprocal, if possible immediate, release and return of civilians under the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) auspices; opening of a land and air corridor for UNMEE; exchange of maps showing mined areas; simultaneous release of an initial 250 prisoners of war by both parties; and a moratorium on arbitrary expulsions until such time as the nationality laws of Ethiopia and Eritrea were adapted.

JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said the landmark Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities signed on June 18 was a major step towards a final peace settlement to the conflict in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Both Governments had held true to their commitments and continued to respect the Agreement. Advantage must be taken of that opportunity to lay the foundation for a durable peace. He urged both parties to extend their full cooperation to UNMEE in the implementation of its mandate.

A credible United Nations presence would serve as a confidence-building measure that would promote trust and bolster peace negotiations. His country’s support for the Mission remained strong. An agreement on the delimitation ad demarcation of the common border was also a critical component to a final peace agreement. That element would be essential if the peace between the two neighbours was to be self-sustaining and beneficial to the people of both countries.

He said that while the search for improved bilateral relations might continue in perpetuity, the presence of United Nations peacekeepers should not. Likewise the Council must work to ensure that peacekeepers were the catalyst for progress, and not an excuse for procrastination.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) expressed satisfaction with the deployment of UNMEE and urged both Ethiopia and Eritrea to seize the opportunity to settle their differences. Both countries must concentrate on achieving an overall peace agreement. With the deployment of UNMEE, both sides must guarantee the Mission’s freedom of movement.

He said his country was pleased that a date had been set for a meeting of the Military Coordination Commission. The conclusion of a lasting settlement would enable both sides to focus on development. The United Kingdom looked forward to the Council’s presidential statement and hoped that work on it would be completed next week.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said he was happy to see the deployment of the Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea. UNMEE's increasing power was a sure guarantee of peace. He appealed to both parties to facilitate the repatriation of prisoners of war. Also, all detained civilians should be released, he stressed.

He hoped the humanitarian work of the United Nations, the Red Cross and non- governmental organizations would also be supported in the field. The international community must ensure that the parties sincerely committed themselves to reaching a global agreement on the bilateral issues. The borders must also be defined, if possible, with the help of the United Nations cartography department.

PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said his country was greatly encouraged that both Ethiopia and Eritrea continued to honour the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities they had signed on 18 June. They had demonstrated a serious commitment to reaching a lasting solution to their dispute. Canada commended Ethiopia and Eritrea for showing the courage to pursue the path of peace.

He said UNMEE was an important first test of the Standby High-Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG). Canada had participated in SHIRBRIG since its inception as a way of enhancing United Nations rapid deployment capacity, and welcomed the chance to augment its UNMEE contribution with a reinforced mechanized infantry company that would work as part of the Netherlands SHIRBRIG battalion.

Endorsing the confidence-building measures proposed by the Council President, he noted that the United Nations force would face numerous challenges, including the threat of landmines, the urgent need to open air corridors to facilitate the movement of UNMEE and the early conclusion of a status-of-forces agreement. But none of those challenges was insurmountable if both parties demonstrated continued goodwill and cooperation.

Ethiopians and Eritreans must now move from the discourse of peace to the vocabulary of peace. Words must not be allowed to become new weapons now that the guns had fallen silent. Canada called upon both sides to promote and protect the human rights and humanitarian needs of their respective populations.

F.A. SHAMIM AHMED (Bangladesh) said he was encouraged by the progress made so far in terms of deployment of the Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea. His delegation also appreciated the cooperation extended to UNMEE by the two sides. The United Nations was now poised to play an important role in the resolution of the dispute.

His delegation looked forward to the successful outcome of the proximity talks. He was concerned at the humanitarian situation and the problem of existing landmines. Many difficulties still remained, and the Council must continue to watch the situation while the peace mediators pressed on with their task.

ARNOLDO LISTRE (Argentina) said the use of force in international relations was not a valid means of acquiring territory under international law. States were obliged under the United Nations Charter to solve disputes peacefully. Therefore, the withdrawal of both sides to the status quo did not prejudge the final settlement of their territorial dispute.

He said both countries were complying with the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities and cooperating with UNMEE, which, unlike other peacekeeping missions in Africa, had enough troops. Its presence would help generate mutual confidence- building measures. Concrete measures like the release of prisoners and exchange of information on mined areas would contribute to a final settlement.

The UNMEE must not be seen as a replacement for a peace agreement, he stressed. Both sides must be flexible in negotiations to reach agreement on the final demarcation of their disputed border. Far more than a ceasefire was needed. Conditions must also be established for sustainable development.

CHEN XU (China) said the deployment of UNMEE was proceeding smoothly and proximity talks were continuing. At present, both sides were cooperating with and keeping pace with the efforts of the United Nations and the OAU. The international community should take the opportunity to step up its efforts.

He also encouraged Algeria to continue its mediation efforts, and hoped that agreement could be reached as soon as possible on issues such as demarcation. He urged UNMEE to further speed up its deployment.

ANDREI GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said the dynamic deployment of a full- scale United Nations peacekeeping mission would help the OAU promote a negotiating process between the two parties. The road to peace would go through the successful conduct of the Algiers Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities and parallel negotiations for a final and stable peace.

Under present circumstances, restraint and goodwill were particularly important, he said. Both parties must show maximum goodwill in creating a climate of mutual confidence, in accordance with the agreements they had reached regarding security. The Russian Federation supported a political solution.

He said his country was concerned over the serious humanitarian situation arising from the displacement of large numbers of people, and the extraordinary need for emergency assistance. The people of both countries had suffered from the effects of drought and military action. Also of concern was the plight of Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees in the Sudan.

M. PATRICA DURRANT (Jamaica) said her delegation was encouraged by the fact that both Ethiopia and Eritrea had maintained the ceasefire agreement that had been brokered by the OAU. Cooperation between the United Nations and the OAU was a good example of a relationship between the Organization and a regional entity in the search for peace.

Her delegation was extremely concerned at the dire humanitarian situation in both countries, the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance. She also expressed support for the Secretary-General's call to alleviate human suffering in the two countries.

SELMA ASHIPALA-MUSAVYI (Namibia) expressed the hope that the commitment of the parties to the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities would allow the peoples of both countries to enjoy peace and security. Sheer distrust had played a major part in the conflict. Therefore, any confidence-building measures would boost implementation of Security Council resolution 1312 (2000) and enhance further the peace between the two neighbouring countries.

Namibia was aware that the humanitarian situation was deplorable even under normal circumstances, she noted. Due to the hostile climate, the region experienced shortages of food and basic necessities. In addition, landmines would pose a serious challenge for security, as well as developmental activities. Demining activities in the temporary security zones were, therefore, crucial and international assistance essential. It was hoped that international humanitarian workers were doing their best to alleviate the hardships.

MISRAN KARMAIN (Malaysia) said Africa mattered both as a source of concern and as promise for the future. The UNMEE would play a major role on the ground in supporting the peace process in Ethiopia and Eritrea. He hoped all preparations were in place before the imminent arrival of troops. He also hoped that both parties would cooperate and provide all the assistance the Mission needed.

His delegation was satisfied that the ceasefire was holding, and urged both parties to implement the terms of the Agreement. It was imperative that both sides continued with the negotiations to reach a final settlement to the conflict.

SEKOU KASSE (Mali) said that the signing of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities represented a decisive step towards resolving the conflict, which should never have occurred in the first place. The UNMEE, the most recent peacekeeping operation in Africa, would help create the necessary conditions for a solution to the conflict. But it was not a substitute for negotiations leading to a settlement.

He stressed that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) needed support if it was to play its proper role in helping to restore peace. The people of Ethiopia and Eritrea were suffering severe problems, exacerbated by drought. Mali was particularly concerned about the plight of internally displaced people in both countries and the presence of landmines and other explosive devices.

Both parties must continue to show commitment to development, peace and prosperity, not only for their subregion but for Africa as a whole, he said.

VOLODYMYR G. KROKHMAL (Ukraine) said his delegation supported the efforts of the OAU in Ethiopia and Eritrea. It was encouraging that both parties were focusing on implementing the terms contained in the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities. He believed that it would be useful to receive briefings and information from the Secretariat on the progress of Phase III of UNMEE's deployment.

The Special Representative's report on his recent consultations with the Ethiopian Government in Addis Ababa gave rise to optimism. His delegation was concerned at the humanitarian situation, particularly the issue of medical supplies. He called on both Governments to exercise restraint and to avoid further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

Mr. VAN AARTSEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, summarizing today's debate, stressed that the presence of UNMEE could be useful in creating the conditions necessary for continuing negotiations leading to a final settlement, but it was not an alternative to the negotiation process.

He noted that several delegations had supported his proposals for confidence-building measures, as well as the full deployment of UNMEE as soon as possible. The Dutch/Canadian battalion would arrive in the area by mid-December.

The Council members had expressed their support for the efforts of the OAU and those of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The Council was ready to support an eventual final agreement.

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