21 November 2000


Press Release
SC/6957



IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT, COUNCIL EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR UN DEVELOPMENT IN ERITREA, ETHIOPIA

20001121

Stresses That Mission Will Contribute to ‘Positive Climate’ For Negotiation -- Not Replace Need For Final, Comprehensive Settlement

The Security Council this afternoon emphasized that the deployment of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) should contribute to a positive climate for negotiations and not replace the need for a final and comprehensive settlement.

In a statement (document S/PRST/2000/34) read out by its President, Peter van Walsum (Netherlands), the Council underlined the important role which confidence-building measures could play in dispelling the remaining distrust between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and encouraged both States to agree on the package of such measures.

In particular, the Council encouraged the parties to agree on the immediate release and voluntary return of interned civilians under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); the opening of land and air corridors for UNMEE; an exchange of maps showing mined areas; the prompt release of prisoners of war and their return under the auspices of the ICRC; and a moratorium on expulsions.

Reaffirming the need for both parties to fulfil all their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, the Council called on all parties to cooperate with UNMEE in that regard.

The Council further underlined the importance of the full compliance of Member States with the arms embargo imposed by Security Council resolution 1298 (2000).

The meeting, which began at 5:58 p.m., was adjourned at 6:05 p.m.



Security Council - 2 - Press Release SC/6957 4230th Meeting (PM) 21 November 2000

Council Work Programme

When the Security Council met this evening, 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 (document 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.

Presidential Statement

The full text of the presidential statement, which will be issued as document S/PRST/2000/34, reads as follows:

“The Security Council reaffirms its resolutions regarding the situation in Ethiopia and Eritrea, in particular resolutions 1298 (2000) of 17 May 2000, 1312 (2000) of 31 July 2000, and 1320 (2000) of 15 September 2000, which established the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).

“The Security Council reaffirms the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

“The Security Council notes with appreciation the commitment of both parties to a final and comprehensive peace settlement. The Council also notes with appreciation the rounds of proximity talks that have taken place and, pursuant to paragraph 14 of resolution 1320 (2000), calls on the parties to continue negotiations and to conclude without delay a final and comprehensive peace settlement. The Council emphasizes that the deployment of UNMEE should contribute to a positive climate for negotiations and that it does not replace the need for such a peace settlement.

“The Security Council reiterates its strong support for the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities between the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Government of the State of Eritrea signed in Algiers on 18 June 2000 (S/2000/601).

“The Security Council underlines the important role which confidence- building measures could play in dispelling the remaining distrust between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and encourages both States to agree on a package of such measures. In particular, the Council encourages the parties to agree on the immediate release and voluntary and orderly return of interned civilians under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); the opening of land and

air corridors for UNMEE; an exchange of maps showing mined area; the prompt release of prisoners of war and their return under the auspices of the ICRC; and a moratorium on expulsions.

“The Security Council reaffirms the need for both parties to fulfil all their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. The Council calls on the parties to cooperate with UNMEE in this regard.

“The Security Council expresses its continuing support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, the Organization of African Unity, the President of Algeria and his Special Envoy, and concerned Member States to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict.

“The Security Council underlines the importance of the full compliance of Member States with the arms embargo imposed by resolution 1298 (2000).

“The Security Council remains actively seized of the matter.”

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