30 July 2008 The Security Council today voted unanimously to terminate the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), after restrictions placed on the peacekeeping operation by the latter country undermined its ability to carry out its mandate.
The 15-member body emphasized that the termination of UNMEE, effective tomorrow, is without prejudice to the obligations of the two countries under the Algiers Agreement, the 2000 accord which ended their border war.
The UN decided in February to temporarily move its personnel and equipment out of Eritrea after the country cut off fuel supplies to UNMEE, paralyzing the operation on that side of the border with Ethiopia.
In the resolution adopted today, the Council demanded that the two Horn of Africa neighbours “comply fully with their obligations under the Algiers Agreements, show maximum restraint and refrain from any threat or use of force against each other, while avoiding provocative military activities.”
The Council requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to further explore with Ethiopia and Eritrea the possibility of a UN presence in those two countries, in the context of the maintenance of international peace and security.
“The Council has taken this decision after both parties rejected options for a possible follow-on presence put before them by the Secretary-General at the request of the Security Council,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement issued following the Council’s action.
While the Secretary-General regrets this decision by the parties, he hopes that they “would be able break the current stalemate and create conditions necessary for the normalization of their relations, which is key to peace and stability in the region,” the statement added.
The options presented to the parties were a small military observer mission in Ethiopia, a small political and military liaison office in Ethiopia, or a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General based in New York, as noted by Mr. Ban in a letter to the Council that was made public today.
Mr. Ban intends to continue working closely with both parties through his good offices, which remain available.
The Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Ethiopia/Eritrea praised the work of the men and women who have served in UNMEE over the past seven and a half years.
“The Mission was sent at the request of both countries to keep the peace after a two-year war (1998-2000) claimed at least 70,000 Ethiopian and Eritrean lives. It was a difficult mission in geographically harsh locations, but the men and women who served with UNMEE did not flinch,” said Azouz Ennifar.
UNMEE has announced that its military and civilian peacekeepers will begin the formal liquidation of their headquarters in Asmara and Addis Ababa as of midnight Thursday.
About 320 military personnel remain on the Ethiopian side, but it is anticipated they will leave by the end of August after four remaining observation sites have been dismantled. The mission currently has about 130 civilian staff in Ethiopia and 250 in Eritrea.
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