United States proposes cutting troops from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia


May 24, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — The United States on Monday proposed cutting troops from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia as a way to pressure the rivals into settling their border at last, diplomats said.

The United Nations peacekeeping department opposes the idea, which was raised in a Security Council meeting after Eritrea and Ethiopia made no progress talks last week on resuming the demarcation of their border, the Associated Press reported.

The two neighbors have repeatedly ignored council demands that Eritrea lift restrictions on U.N. helicopter flights and that Ethiopia abide by a 2002 border deal, which awarded the key town of Badme to Eritrea. The council had threatened to reconsider the size and mandate of the 3,350-troop mission of there was no progress.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said he wants the force to also be reclassified as an observer mission, which would give it less power than a peacekeeping force. The council must make a decision by May 31, when the mandate for the U.N. peacekeeping force between the two nations expires.

“Our view remains that we should downsize (the peacekeeping force) to an observer mission,” Bolton said.

U.N. diplomats said France and Britain would be willing to consider fewer troops.

Undersecretary-General Jean-Marie Guehenno, the top U.N. peacekeeping official, said he opposed cutting the size of the mission. Doing so would make it more difficult both to monitor the buffer zone separating the two.

“How do you reconcile the need to monitor the temporary security zone and make sure that you do it effectively, and at the same time support the demarcation process?” Guehenno said after the council meeting.


Diplomats refused to say how many troops could be cut from the peacekeeping force, though Greece’s Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis said the council discussed 1,500. British Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said he would be surprised if so many troops were cut.

Last year, Eritrea banned U.N. helicopter flights on its side of a buffer zone separating the two nations to protest Ethiopia’s refusal to accept the proposed border deal.

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