End of May marks deadline for Ethiopia, Eritrea to meet UN demands


May15,2006 (KHARTOUM)The Security Council on Monday decided to offer Ethiopia and Eritrea  more time until the end of May to fulfill its requirements of accepting the border drawn between the two countries by outside experts; and also to end all  imposed restrictions on U.N. peacekeepers, according to Reuters.  

The 15-nation council of the United Nations unanimously adopted a resolution that pledged to quickly scale back the U.N. force maintaining a fragile no-war, no- peace situation between the two foes, if they fail to meet the U.N. demands.

The council had earlier set May17, 2006 as a deadline but pushed it back two weeks to give Ethiopian and Eritrean officials sufficient time to meet for a second time with the members of the international boundary commission that marked out the disputed border between the two countries.

That meeting, part of a U.S. initiative to revive the peace process, has been set for Wednesday in London after an April 28 meeting date was postponed.

U.N. troops were sent to Ethiopia and Eritrea following a 2000 peace agreement ending their two-year border war, which killed some 70,000 people. Some 3,350 peacekeepers monitor a buffer zone along the 620-mile (1,000 km) frontier separating the two neighbors.

As part of the peace deal, both countries agreed to accept as final and binding a new border set out for them by the international commission.

But Ethiopia then rejected the border and insisted on further talks, prompting Eritrea to put restrictions on peacekeepers’ movements including a ban on U.N. helicopter flights over its territory.

The restrictions, imposed in October 2005, have stoked tensions on both sides of the border by limiting peacekeepers’ ability to monitor troop movements.

Council members have grown increasingly impatient with the two nations’ refusal to comply with their demands.

Last January U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan set out six options for reconfiguring the U.N. force, ranging from full withdrawal to maintaining the mission in its present form.

In its resolution, the council said that if the two sides failed to fully comply with its demands, it would adjust the peacekeeping mission’s “mandate and troop level … by the end of May 2006.”

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