Ethiopia and Eritrea must de-escalate border row, says Ban Ki-moon

24 January 2008 –

Warning that the continuing military build-up by Ethiopia and Eritrea in their border areas, where the two countries fought a deadly two-year war that ended in 2000, creates the risk of reigniting hostilities, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging the neighbouring States to urgently de-escalate the situation.

Ethiopia and Eritrea should end their exchange of hostile statements, return to December 2004 levels of deployment in the border areas and provide the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) with the necessary assistance, support and protection so that it can fulfil its mandate, Mr. Ban says in his latest report to the Security Council on the work of the mission.

He writes that Eritrea must also immediately withdraw all troops and heavy military equipment from the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and reverse all restrictions on the movement and operations of UNMEE, including fuel supplies, which were stopped at the start of last month.

“I am seriously concerned that, if not resolved immediately, the stoppage of fuel supplies since 1 December 2007 will completely immobilize the Mission operations in the coming few weeks,” the Secretary-General says, noting that UNMEE would have to relocate staff and equipment.

The restrictions have become so crippling that Mr. Ban says they require a Council decision on UNMEE’s future, and he recommends that the mission’s mandate have a one-month technical rollover while the latest developments are monitored and assessed.

He encourages the two nations to resume the meetings of the Military Coordination Commission – there has been no such gathering since mid-2006 – as a way of developing confidence-building measures, such as mine clearance and ensuring humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.


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