Onus on Ethiopia, Eritrea to resolve dispute, says top UN peacekeeping official

UNMEE peacekeepers

22 April 2008 – Ethiopia and Eritrea are primarily responsible for settling their border dispute and must follow up on the commitments they made in an accord in 2000, the top United Nations peacekeeping official stressed today.

Given Eritrea’s announcement today that it no longer supports the UN peacekeeping presence, known as UNMEE, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno told reporters following a closed Security Council meeting on the situation between the Horn of Africa neighbours that “now we are reaching the end of what peacekeeping can achieve.”

He noted that peacekeeping can only make a difference if the countries involved have made a political commitment.

Eight years after the signing of the Algiers Agreements which ended the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, “it is essential that the parties recommit themselves to that process, that they complete what they started in Algiers,” Mr. Guéhenno stated.

He added that the authority of the Council regarding peacekeepers has been challenged in this case, which has implications for other operations.

In a special report to the 15-member body on UNMEE released earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon laid out four options for the future of the peacekeeping operation, including the possibility of axing the mission, because of restrictions imposed by Eritrea on its side of the disputed border.

He warned in the report that none of the options are ideal as they all bear serious risks and would not resolve the impasse created by the Eritrean restrictions. Ending the mission could result in a return to open hostilities, for example, he wrote.

“Yet the prevailing circumstances seriously limit the available courses of action,” Mr. Ban noted.

The decision was made to temporarily move UN personnel and equipment out of Eritrea in March after the country cut off fuel supplies to UNMEE, paralyzing the operation on that side of the disputed border with Ethiopia.


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