SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF MISSION IN ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA UNTIL 15 SEPTEMBER 2001

15 March 2001
SC/7030

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF MISSION IN ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA UNTIL 15 SEPTEMBER 2001

15/03/2001
Press ReleaseSC/7030

Security Council

4294th Meeting* (AM)

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF MISSION IN ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA

UNTIL 15 SEPTEMBER 2001

Expressing strong support for the role played by the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) in the implementation of its mandate, the Security Council this morning decided to extend its mandate until 15 September 2001.

The Council took that action as it unanimously adopted resolution 1344 (2001), by which it called on the parties to the conflict to continue working towards the full and prompt implementation of the Agreement of Cessation of Hostilities signed between the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea in Algiers on 18 June 2000, and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by both those parties in Algiers on 12 December 2000.

According to the text, full and prompt implementation of the Agreements would include an expeditious completion of remaining steps, in particular the rearrangement of forces necessary for the establishment of the Temporary Security Zone.  The Council stressed that the Agreements link the termination of the Mission with the completion of the process of delimitation and demarcation of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border -- a key element of the peace process.

The Council further stressed the importance of the close relationship between UNMEE and the Boundary Commission and, noting the recommendations in the Secretary-General's report, encouraged the Mission to provide appropriate support to the Commission.

By other terms, the Council called on all States and international organizations to consider providing further support to the peace process, as well as to assist and participate in the longer-term tasks of reconstruction and development, and the socio-economic recovery of Ethiopia and Eritrea.  

The meeting, which began 11:48 a.m., was adjourned at 12 noon.

Resolution

Following is the text of resolution 1344 (2001):

The Security Council,

Recalling resolutions 1298 (2000) of 17 May 2000, 1308 (2000) of 17 July 2000, 1312 (2000) of 31 July 2000, and 1320 (2000) of 15 September 2000, the

__________

statement of its President of 9 February 2001 (S/PRST/4), and all relevant previous resolutions and statements of its President pertaining to the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict,

Reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ethiopia and Eritrea,

Further reaffirming the need for both parties to fulfil all of their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law,

Recalling the relevant principles contained in the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 49/59 of 9 December 1994,

Reaffirming its strong support for the Agreement of Cessation of Hostilities signed between the Government of the State of Eritrea and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in Algiers on 18 June 2000 (S/2000/601) and the subsequent Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the parties in Algiers on 12 December 2000 (S/2000/1183),

Welcoming the progress made thus far in the implementation of these agreements,

Reaffirming its strong support for the Secretary-General’s role in continuing to help implement the Agreements, including through his good offices, for the continuing efforts of his Special Representative and for the contributions of relevant United Nations entities,

Expressing its strong support for the role played by the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) in the implementation of its mandate,

Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 7 March 2001 (S/2001/202),

“1.   Decides to extend the mandate of UNMEE at the troop and military observer levels authorized by its resolution 1320 (2000) until 15 September 2001;

“2.   Calls on the parties to continue working towards the full and prompt implementation of their Agreements, including an expeditious completion of the remaining steps, in particular the rearrangement of forces necessary for the establishment of the Temporary Security Zone, and to fulfil the following obligations:

a.    to ensure freedom of movement and access for UNMEE;

b.    to establish a direct air corridor between Addis Ababa and Asmara in the interests of the safety of United Nations personnel;

c.    to conclude Status of Forces Agreements with the Secretary-General;

d.    to facilitate mine action in coordination with the United Nations Mine Action Service, in particular through exchanging and providing existing maps and any other relevant information to the United Nations;

“3.   Stresses that the Agreements link the termination of the United Nations peacekeeping mission with the completion of the process of delimitation and demarcation of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border, which is a key element of the peace process;

“4.   Notes the primary responsibility of the parties under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to fund the Boundary Commission and urges them to fulfil their financial obligations in this regard;

“5.   Stresses the importance of the close relationship between UNMEE and the Boundary Commission and, noting the recommendations contained in paragraphs 50 and 53 of the Secretary-General’s report, encourages UNMEE to provide appropriate support to the Boundary Commission;

“6.   Decides to consider the recommendations in paragraphs 50 and 53 of the Secretary-General’s report upon receipt of more detailed information;

“7.   Calls on all States and international organizations to consider providing further support to the peace process, including through contributions to the voluntary Trust Fund to facilitate the rapid delimitation and demarcation of the common border, as well as to assist and participate in the longer term tasks of reconstruction and development, and the economic and social recovery of Ethiopia and Eritrea;

“8.   Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

Secretary-General’s Report

The Council had before it a report from the Secretary-General (document S/2001/202), in which he recommends the extension of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) for six months, until 15 September 2001.

The report also provides an update on political and humanitarian developments and on the deployment and activities of UNMEE since his last report in January 2001.  Despite small incidents, the military situation between the two armed forces has generally remained calm, the Secretary-General notes.

He reports the parties made major strides towards establishing the Temporary Security Zone set out in their Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities.  The Zone, the Secretary-General explains, is a critical first step to instil confidence, disengage troops and allow both Governments to arrange for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons and revive local economic life.  It will also enable humanitarian organizations to begin their activities in the area.

This progress followed an agreement reached by the parties at the third meeting of the Military Coordination Commission held at Nairobi on 6 February, where they accepted, with reservations, an UNMEE proposal for the southern boundary of the Temporary Security Zone, thus resolving the impasse which had existed since December 2000.  Ethiopia commenced redeployment of its forces on

12 February and notified UNMEE on 22 February, four days before the agreed deadline, that it had completed this process.

Similarly, Eritrea began to rearrange its forces northward on 17 February, in a process that should have been completed by 3 March.  However, it has subsequently informed the Special Representative that it has halted repositioning, because of objections to an operational map of the Temporary Security Zone.  There is still a significant Eritrean military presence in all three sectors, the Secretary-General reports.  The UNMEE believes these troops are prepared to move, but are awaiting orders to do so.

This situation has created a delicate and potentially dangerous vacuum of authority, the report notes.  The UNMEE is also concerned by recent instances of restrictions to its freedom of movement, and law and order problems that may arise because Eritrean civil administration has not been restored in the city of Senafe.

Regarding the status of the delimitation and demarcation of the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, the Secretary-General reports that both parties have notified him of the appointment of the Commissioners of the Boundary Commission and submitted their claims and evidence.  The President of the Boundary Commission was elected on 20 February.  However, Ethiopia has subsequently formally objected to one of the Eritrea-nominated Commissioners, a fact that has now been communicated to parties and Commission members.

By 12 March, the Commission Secretary will have given the Commission and the parties his findings, identifying portions of the border about which there appears to be no dispute, and the Commission is planning to hold its first meeting on

25 March at The Hague.  The Secretary-General states he has not received any indication from the parties of planned or actual financial arrangements to meet their obligation to bear the Boundary Commission's costs (the current Trust Fund balance remains at just over $1.7 million).  A Claims Commission has been established by the parties.

Since 12 December, Ethiopia has released 614 prisoners of war and Eritrea 628.  During the reporting period, the release and repatriation of prisoners of war was only partly completed.

Deployment of United Nations troops to the Mission area is proceeding in a satisfactory manner, and the Force Commander reports as of 10 February he had a "credible force to carry out the UNMEE mandate" -- a criterion for the Ethiopian redeployment process to begin, the Secretary-General reports.  As at 1 March, UNMEE’s military component stood at 4,143 personnel, including 3,236 troops,

121 military staff, 212 military observers and 574 national support elements.  The Mission’s civilian component is 159 international and 114 local staff.  The vast majority of UNMEE military personnel will be deployed by mid-March, with the total troop strength of up to 4,200 personnel, including up to 220 military observers.

As of 7 March, the Secretary-General reports, status-of-forces agreements had not been completed with either Eritrea or Ethiopia.  Problems also remained with regards to UNMEE’s freedom of movement, despite commitments from both parties.  An effective UNMEE public information programme has been established, the Secretary-General reports, although broadcast of UNMEE radio on Radio Ethiopia has been held up by objections from national authorities in Addis Ababa. 

Demining training has commenced, the Secretary-General reports, but, unfortunately, the training initiative has been forced to proceed under ad hoc emergency funding arrangements.  However, neither party has so far provided complete information on mine fields.

The populations of Eritrea and Ethiopia continue to face a difficult humanitarian situation as a result of the impact of the drought, now in its third year, the report states.  The war compounds these conditions.  The establishment of the Temporary Security Zone will be followed by a rapid humanitarian needs assessment, with key areas of concern being food security, health, water and sanitation, housing, education and the return and reintegration to their villages in the Temporary Security Zone of an estimated 160,000 internally displaced persons currently in camps.  Attention will also need to be given to emergency reconstruction.

Background

Fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia erupted in May 1998, as a result of a border dispute.  The Secretary-General immediately contacted both countries, urging restraint and offering assistance, and asked Mohamed Sahnoun (Algeria), his Special Envoy in Africa, to assist with mediation efforts being undertaken by the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

At an OAU summit in July 1999, the two parties entered an agreement to redeploy their forces.  Despite further mediation, proposals to end the conflict from the OAU and the United States, and talks between a special Security Council mission and the leaders of each country, tension along the border remained very high.  Fighting erupted again on 12 May 2000.

On 17 May 2000, the Security Council adopted a resolution 1298 which aimed to prevent the supply of weapons to the two countries.  It also demanded the parties reconvene, under the auspices of the OAU and without preconditions, substantive peace talks.  Proximity talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea resumed in Algiers on 30 May.  They resulted in both countries signing an Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities on 18 June 2000, which called on the United Nations, in cooperation with the OAU, to establish a peacekeeping operation to assist in its implementation.

On 31 July, the Security Council (resolution 1312 (2000)), decided to establish UNMEE.  The Mission's mandate included:  establishing and operating a mechanism for verifying the cessation of hostilities; preparing for the establishment of a Military Coordination Commission provided for in the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement; and assisting in planning for a future peacekeeping operation.

Reporting to the Security Council on 9 August, the Secretary-General outlined the mandate of an expanded UNMEE and recommended a total of 4,200 military personnel, including 220 military observers, three infantry battalions and the necessary support units, to monitor the ceasefire and border delineation between Ethiopia and Eritrea.  A Special Representative would have overall authority and maintain close contact with political and military leadership of Ethiopia and Eritrea.  Offices in Addis Ababa and Asmara would be complemented by regional headquarters based in Mendefera, western Eritrea, and Mekele, northern Ethiopia.

Negotiations continued, facilitated by President Bouteflika of Algeria, and resulted in the signing on 12 December 2000 of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  This Agreement commits the sides to a complete termination of hostilities, requires the establishment of a neutral Boundary Commission to "delimit and demarcate the colonial treaty border", foresees the creation of a neutral Claims Commission which would decide on claims from either side, and calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the conflict.

Briefing by Special Representative

Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told correspondents at a press briefing that followed his meeting with the Security Council on 13 March that, despite problems, the nature and discipline of the two countries, and their desire for peace, meant the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea would not fall apart. 

The problem with the Temporary Security Zone concerned a map, that is, an attempt was made to turn the computer-generated political map, agreed upon by both sides, into something that could be used for redeploying troops.  Eritrea, however, had rejected a change to that map that meant the central area of Irob would be under Ethiopian control.

Mr. Legwaila explained that the Temporary Security Zone was an interim measure that had nothing whatsoever to do with future decisions on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.  The UNMEE was seeking a resolution to current problems, and he believed that good sense would prevail.  Anomalies would prevail until the Boundary Commission had completed its work. 

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For information media. Not an official record.