Eritrean fuel restrictions threaten viability of UN mission, warns envoy

25 January 2008 –

Eritrea’s fuel restrictions imposed on the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) is paralyzing the work of the mission and could force it to withdraw from that side of the disputed border between the two countries, a UN official warned today.

Azouz Ennifar, UNMEE’s acting head, told journalists after briefing the Security Council that the mission has not been able to obtain fresh supplies of fuel in Eritrea since 1 December last year.

“These restrictions are paralyzing the mission and its movements and making the living conditions of our civilian and military staff on the ground extremely difficult,” he said.

UNMEE is relying on “certain quantities” of fuel stocks it has, but is having to use them sparingly so as to stretch them as long as possible. The number of patrols carried out by mission staff have had to be reduced as a result.

In his most recent report on the situation, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended to the Council that the mission’s mandate have a one-month technical rollover to assess the situation.

Mr. Ennifar said that unless the mission is allowed access to fuel supplies, then a decision will have to be made before the end of next month on whether it is worth continuing to operate on the Eritrean side of the border with Ethiopia, which was the subject of a deadly two-year war that ended in 2000.

He stressed that the UN had pursued many diplomatic avenues to try to convince the Eritrean Government to change its decision.

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