UN mission along Eritrea-Ethiopia border to be extended



March15, 2006(KHARTOUM)-Mar 13, 2006 (UNITED NATIONS) — US Ambassador John Bolton said here Monday that the Security Council was likely to extend for 30 days the mandate of the UN mission monitoring the Eritrea-Ethiopia border dispute


Speaking after a meeting of the Security Council on the Horn of Africa border dispute, the US envoy said: “We will likely extend the UNMEE mandate for 30 days.”


He added however that he personally felt the UN peacekeeping mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) should move “more toward an observer mission”.


“We think as long as the impasse remains both on the question of the border demarcation and on the restrictions (slapped by Eritrea) on UNMEE, it’s appropriate to move in the direction of an observer mission,” he said.


Bolton said he briefed the council on last week’s meeting in London of the independent panel that demarcated the frontier still in dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and on parallel US efforts to resolve the demarcation issue.


Meanwhile UN chief Kofi Annan on Monday welcomed the outcome of the London meeting.


“The Secretary General welcomes the outcome of the (London) meeting of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission,” his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in a statement.


Annan was pleased to hear that the parties “participated constructively, and encouraged by their agreements for the demarcation of the boundary, which the Commission delimited in April 2002, to be resumed,” the spokesman added.


The UN chief expressed hope that “this positive development” will allow the Commission’s decision to be implemented without delay, and said the UN stood ready to provide the necessary support to facilitate the demarcation process.


Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a two-year war in the hot and mainly arid highlands of the border region from 1998 to 2000, which claimed some 80,000 lives and ended with a 2000 peace pact negotiated in Algeria.


Both agreed to the terms of a 2002 independent border commission, but thus far Ethiopia has refused to fully implement the agreement and has called for the demarcation to be reviewed.


Eritrea has rejected calls for fresh talks on the border issue and repeatedly warned of renewed conflict if its vast neighbor refuses to comply. The Asmara government has complained vehemently that the international community is favoring Addis Ababa.


To show its displeasure with the United Nations, Asmara slapped restrictions on UN peacekeepers monitoring the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border and expelled North American and European personnel in the mission’s ranks.


It has also refused to respond to UN Security Council demands, backed by the threat of sanctions, to lift the curbs.


On March 3, the UN Security Council pressed Asmara to lift its “unacceptable restrictions” on UNMEE operations in the wake of the death of an Indian UN peacekeeper.


The soldier, Lance Corporal Ramesh Annapa, had suffered a cardiac arrest two days earlier at the Indian UN battalion headquarters in the Ethiopian town of Adrigrat and was subsequently flown to Addis Ababa where he died soon after arrival at the hospital.


Eritrea rejected suggestions that it was to blame for the death of the Indian peacekeeper.

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