SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR UNCONDTITIONAL RELEASE OF REMAINING PRISONERS OF WAR, CITING NEED FOR CONFIDENCE-BUILDING BETWEEN ETHIOPIA, ERITREA

16 January 2002
SC/7271

SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR UNCONDTITIONAL RELEASE OF REMAINING PRISONERS OF WAR, CITING NEED FOR CONFIDENCE-BUILDING BETWEEN ETHIOPIA, ERITREA

16/01/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7271

Security Council

4450th Meeting (Night)

SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR UNCONDTITIONAL RELEASE OF REMAINING PRISONERS OF WAR,

CITING NEED FOR CONFIDENCE-BUILDING BETWEEN ETHIOPIA, ERITREA

Presidential Statement Reaffirms ‘Strong Support’

Of Council for Comprehensive Peace Agreement of December 2000

Underlining the need for confidence-building measures between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Security Council this evening called on the parties to release and return unconditionally and without further delay all remaining prisoners of war and to release all other persons detained as a result of the armed conflict, welcoming the repatriation yesterday of 25 Ethiopian prisoners of war from Eritrea under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

In a presidential statement (document S/PRST/2002/1) read by Council President Jagdish Koonjul (Mauritius), the Council, noting that the situation in the Temporary Security Zone had remained calm and that the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) had proved allegations concerning military build-up in the Temporary Security Zone to be unfounded, reiterated its call on Eritrea to disclose the number, strength and disposition of its militia and police inside the Zone.

The Council noted that Eritrea had begun to allow UNMEE to visit some locations in the adjacent area north of the Temporary Security Zone and called again on that country to grant UNMEE the full freedom of movement it required for monitoring Eritrea's redeployed forces.  The Council further called on Eritrea to conclude the status-of-forces agreement with the Secretary-General, noting that the model status-of-forces agreement as set out in resolution 1320 (2000) was in effect.

Noting the information provided by Ethiopia regarding mines, the Council called on that country to provide further details on the types of mines used in the Zone and adjacent areas with the view to facilitate the return home of internally displaced persons and the forthcoming border demarcation work.  The Council looked forward to the border delimitation determination by the Boundary Commission, which would be final and binding.

The Council expressed regret that there had been no progress regarding the establishment of a direct high-altitude flight route for UNMEE between Asmara, Eritrea, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and called on parties once again to work with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to settle the issue for the mutual benefit at all.

The Council also called on Member States in a position to do so to provide further support to the peace process and to alleviate the difficult humanitarian situation.

The Council confirmed its intention to send a mission to the two countries in February 2002.

The meeting, which began at 6:05 p.m., was adjourned at 6:15 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of the presidential statement is as follows:

“1.   The Security Council, recalling all previous resolutions and statements of its President regarding the situation in Ethiopia and Eritrea, welcomes the Secretary-General’s progress report of 13 December 2001 (S/2001/1194).

“2.   The Security Council reaffirms the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Council further reaffirms its strong support for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of the State of Eritrea and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, signed in Algiers on 12 December 2000 (S/2000/1183), and the preceding Agreement of Cessation of Hostilities (S/2000/601), signed in Algiers on 18 June 2000 (hereafter referred to collectively as the Algiers Agreements).  The Council reaffirms its unwavering commitment to contribute to the completion of the peace process.

“3.   The Security Council looks forward to the border delimitation determination by the Boundary Commission, which is final and binding. The Council stresses that in accordance with article 4.15 of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (S/2000/1183), which has the full support of the international community, the Parties have committed themselves to accepting fully the determination of the Boundary Commission.

“4.   The Security Council notes that, notwithstanding the outstanding issues, the situation in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) has remained calm with the considerable progress made to date under the peace process preserved.

“5.   The Security Council reiterates its strong support for the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and calls on the parties to cooperate fully with UNMEE.

“6.   The Security Council notes that UNMEE has proved allegations made in the recent past by the parties, including concerning military build-up in the TSZ and adjacent areas north of the zone, to be unfounded. The Council welcomes the recent reduction in the use of rhetoric by the parties and encourages them to continue to defuse tension and exercise greater degrees of flexibility in their approaches to the peace process.

“7.   The Security Council notes that Eritrea has begun to allow UNMEE to visit some locations in the adjacent area north of the TSZ upon 24-hours’ notification and calls again on Eritrea to grant UNMEE the full freedom of movement it requires in this area to allow, in particular, for monitoring of Eritrea’s redeployed forces and hence facilitate expeditious responses to any allegations, thereby facilitating mutual confidence.

“8.   The Security Council reiterates its call on Eritrea to disclose the number, strength and disposition of its militia and police inside the TSZ and to refrain from deployment close to the southern boundary of the TSZ, thereby facilitating mutual confidence.

“9.   The Security Council further reiterates its call on Eritrea to conclude the status-of-forces agreement with the Secretary-General.  The Council notes, in this regard, that the model status-of-forces agreement as set out in resolution 1320 (2000) of 15 December 2000 is in effect.

“10.  The Security Council notes the information provided by Ethiopia regarding mines and calls on Ethiopia to provide UNMEE with further details on the types of mines used in the TSZ and adjacent areas, as well as more specific information on minefields already cleared by Ethiopian Armed Forces, with the view to facilitate the return to home of internally displaced persons and the forthcoming border demarcation work.

“11.  The Security Council expresses its regret that there has been no progress regarding the establishment of a direct high-altitude flight route for UNMEE between Asmara and Addis Ababa.  It notes with deep concern that the current extended flight route for UNMEE between the two capitals has significant security, logistical and financial implications.  The Council calls on the parties once again to work with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in a spirit of compromise to settle the issue for the mutual benefit of all.

“12.  The Security Council, underlining the need for confidence-building measures, calls on the parties to release and return unconditionally and without further delay, under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), all the remaining prisoners of war and release all other persons detained as a result of the armed conflict, in accordance with international humanitarian law and the Algiers Agreement.  In this regard, the Council welcomes the repatriation yesterday of 25 Ethiopian prisoners of war from Eritrea under the auspices of the ICRC.  The Council encourages authorities and civil society in both Ethiopia and Eritrea to afford humane treatment, without discrimination, to each other’s nationals and persons of each other’s origin within their respective territories.

“13.  The Security Council, inviting the parties to make further contributions to fulfil their financial responsibilities regarding the Boundary Commission, expresses its determination to support the practical demarcation of the border.  It looks forward to the forthcoming recommendations by the Secretary-General in this regard.

“14.  The Security Council, expressing appreciation to those Member States that have already provided voluntary contributions, calls on Member States in a position to do so to provide further support to the peace process and to alleviate the difficult humanitarian situation and, where conditions allow, help facilitate reconstruction and development in both countries, including by making contributions through the following channels:

“(a)  United Nations Consolidated Appeals process for 2002;

“(b)  United Nations Trust Fund to Support the Peace Process in Ethiopia-Eritrea; and, in light of paragraph 13 above,

“(c)  United Nations Trust Fund for the Delimitation and Demarcation of the Border established pursuant to resolution 1177 (1998).

“15.  The Security Council confirms its intention to send a mission to the two countries in February 2002.”

Background

When the Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Ethiopia and Eritrea, it had before it a progress report of the Secretary-General (document S/2001/1194).  It provides an update on political, military, humanitarian and human rights developments, as well as on the deployment and activities of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) since his report of

5 September 2001.  Security Council resolution 1369 (2001) of 14 September 2001 authorized the Mission's extension for a further six months until 15 March 2002.

The report recalls that resolution 1369 (2001) also reiterated in strong terms the Council’s position on a number of cardinal issues related to the peace process.  This position has since been repeated in several statements to the press, but many of the Council's appeals to the parties remain unimplemented.  The situation in the Temporary Security Zone remains calm.  While the parties still have reservations regarding the boundaries of the Zone, they actually respect it on the ground.  Meanwhile, UNMEE patrols and observes effectively throughout the Zone, contributing an important element of stability.

Further to the Temporary Security Zone, the report notes that Eritrea disputes the southern boundary of the Zone and, therefore, considers that it is "not fully established".  Both parties, however, have generally respected the Zone.  There have been isolated instances of small units or patrols belonging to both parties crossing into the Zone, but these have not had a negative impact on its overall integrity.  Despite that, Eritrea's continued refusal to recognize the Zone's southern boundary remains a source of concern.

At the same time, the report notes that the great majority of internally displaced persons have returned or are returning home and the first post-conflict harvests have been reaped, the report observes.  Working together with the Mine Action Coordination Centre, Ethiopia has recently provided more mine information, a development that will assist demining efforts, thereby facilitating the return of the internally displaced who have, thus far, been unable to return because of landmines. 

Regrettably, however, during the past few months, tensions have risen considerably in the Mission area, with each of the two parties accusing the other of building up militarily, the Secretary-General observes.  Moreover, both parties have also accused UNMEE, without foundation, of pursuing a policy of "appeasement" and negligence vis-à-vis violations.  While Eritrea's lack of cooperation in providing UNMEE with information on its militia and police and in allowing unrestricted freedom of movement in the areas adjacent to the Temporary Security Zone is regrettable, the Mission has found no evidence of any significant Eritrean military build-up. 

The report stresses that UNMEE must be able to move freely in the adjacent areas north of the Temporary Security Zone, in accordance with the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, in order to investigate allegations and allay suspicions such as those which surfaced recently.  For the same reasons, it is critical that Eritrea disclose the number, strength and main disposition of its militia and police inside the Zone, and that it refrain from deploying police and militia units close to the southern boundary of the Zone, which can only increase tensions.  Eritrea's position that it will provide information on militia and police on the condition of confidentiality cannot be reconciled with the requirement for transparency, which is essential for building confidence between the parties.

According to the report, it is precisely the absence of such mutual confidence that leaves the relationship between the two countries in a potentially volatile situation.  The Secretary-General appeals to Eritrea to cooperate fully with UNMEE, including by granting it freedom of movement in the adjacent areas north of the Temporary Security Zone, so that Ethiopia and, indeed, the Council can be reassured that Eritrea has no intentions other than implementing in full their obligations under the peace process.  At the same time, he urges both parties to exercise restraint, as the recent public allegations of major military preparations, and further escalation of rhetoric that accompanied them, do not help the cause of peace.

While the recent release of ailing prisoners of war by both Governments is commendable, the report states that Ethiopia and Eritrea should be reminded that, under the Algiers Peace Agreement and international humanitarian law, they are obliged to release all remaining prisoners of war without delay.  Meanwhile, efforts must now be directed at creating the right climate for the forthcoming decision on delimitation of the Boundary Commission.  As that time approaches, it will be vital for the parties to ensure the consolidation of peace.  In that context, the Secretary-General appeals to Member States to provide assistance to both countries to overcome their humanitarian difficulties and embark on the road of reconstruction and development. 

The report contains two annexes.  The first is the third report on the   work of the Eritrea/Ethiopia Boundary Commission.  It covers the period from

1 September to 30 November 2001, and notes that it has been advised that the demarcation stage of settling the boundary could take a long time.  That is a physical process that must necessarily take place on the ground.  The whole of the border region involved in the dispute has been heavily mined, to an extent that will prevent demarcation until the mines have been cleared.  It is already clear that the whole demining process will be of considerable complexity.

The Commission President states that although its mandate includes demarcation, as well as delimitation, the precise allocation of on-the-ground responsibility for organizing the demining process as between the Commission and UNMEE requires clarification, a matter that the Council will no doubt wish to consider.  Regardless of who is responsible for carrying out the process, it will be very costly and will necessitate major increase in the United Nations Trust Fund for the Delimitation and Demarcation of the Border established in accordance with Security Council resolution 1177 (1998). 

Also according to that report, the Commission believes that the demining would be best carried out by, or under the management of, UNMEE; only when a given stretch of the border as delimited, or access to the prospective locations of individual boundary pillars, is declared mine-free should the actual demarcation proceed.

Annex 2 of the Secretary-General's report lists the personnel contributions to UNMEE according to country as at 6 December 2001.

Background on UNMEE

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, and 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 June, the Security Council (resolution 1312 (2000)) decided to establish UNMEE on the basis of a recommendation from the Secretary-General.  The Mission's mandate included to liaise with the parties; establish and operate a mechanism for verifying the cessation of hostilities; prepare for the establishment of a Military Coordination Commission provided for in the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement; and assist in planning for a future peacekeeping operation.

Reporting to the 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.

As of April 2001, the troops of both countries have withdrawn from the Temporary Security Zone area, and UNMEE has declared the establishment of that Temporary Security Zone -- a zone set out in the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities to separate the two forces -- and is monitoring the Zone.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.