Caught between Ethiopian and Eritrean line of fire UNMEE is as good as dead

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The UN peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) is as good as dead, according to the Ethiopian government.

“It is now becoming clear that UNMEE’s formal existence is about to come to an end,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said in its weekly review of the situation in the Horn of Africa countries.

Referring to the current debate in the UN Security Council on how to bring operations of the force to an end, the ministry pointed out the serious problem relating to the preamble of the Council’s draft resolution.

“Ethiopia has made it clear that any possible UN presence after the demise of UNMEE cannot be based on the same principles,” said the ministry, noting that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had underlined the same stance in a letter to the Security Council president on 17 June 2008.

In the same letter, Meles emphasised the fact that Ethiopia would keep an open mind in terms of cooperating with the UN and the Security Council, with respect to a UN presence in Ethiopia in line with principles related to the maintenance of regional peace and security.

While concerned about border tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, including the latter’s restrictions on the UN peace keepers, the world body has avoided making hasty decisions on the operations of UNMEE over the last two years.

For UNMEE, it has been a frustrating existence on the Eritrean side.

Now, Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki has reportedly written to the President of the Security Council stating that the Council could not count on the cooperation of Eritrea with respect to future UN engagement or UN presence in the area, following the formal termination of UNMEE.

According to Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry, the draft resolution being considered by the Council talks about delimitation and demarcation determinations of the disputed border between the two countries “in a rather confusing manner and in a way that would make it difficult to make progress.”

“Ethiopia has repeatedly pointed out that appeasing Eritrea would not ensure progress,” the ministry emphasised.

The UN deployed the peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea to monitor implementation of the agreement on cessation of hostilities that the two countries signed in June 2000 in Algiers, Algeria.

Under that agreement, the peacekeeping mission would terminate when the delimitation-demarcation process of the border has been completed.

No progress has been made on this aspect.

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