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U.N. Extends Mission on Disputed Border
Warns Ethiopia and Eritrea of eventual transformation into observer mission
Amin George Forji (amingeorge)     Print Article 
Published 2006-04-16 15:35 (KST)   
The disputed border is a diplomat's and geographer's nightmare.
©2006 U.N. Map
The U.N. Security Council on Thursday unanimously adopted Resolution 1670 (2006), extending the mandate of the U.N. Mission along the Ethiopia-Eritrea (UNMEE) border until May 15. The Council said both countries have failed in their U.N. duties and obligations. It added that the present resolution is aimed at giving the two parties more time to find a way out of their long-standing dispute.

The resolution issued two key warnings. The first, to Eritrea, is to reverse its controversial decision to ban the U.N. mission's helicopter flights, while the other calls on Ethiopia to accept the final and binding decision of an independent commission on the demarcation of the two countries' common and permanent borders.

"Lasting peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea and in the region cannot be achieved without the full demarcation of the border between the two parties," the resolution stated. It further recalls that both have hitherto agreed to "accept the determinations of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission as final and binding."

The U.N. currently has 3,350 troops in the border buffer area, and the present mission was due to expire on April 15. Both nations agreed in 2000 to accept as definitive and final a new boundary to be set out for them by an independent panel. Ethiopia later jettisoned the decision and opted for further talks. The move seriously angered Eritrea, which, in retaliation, imposed restrictions on the movement of peacekeepers and banned the flight of U.N. planes and helicopters over its territory. The latter move seriously limited the smooth functioning of the U.N. mission.

The present resolution clearly specifies that the demarcation of the border "cannot proceed unless UNMEE is allowed full freedom of movement throughout its area of operations. The resolution further stipulates that if the two countries "have not demonstrated full compliance" by the new deadline set for May 15, then it will be forced to consider transforming the present mission "into an observer mission."

Eritrea won its costly independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year struggle, but relations between the two have remained tense, border conflicts accounting for more than 75,000 lives.

The U.N. General Secretary, Kofi Annan, commented that the extension was necessary "in order for the forthcoming meeting of the boundary commission to bear fruit."
Prior to the UNSC meeting he had called the situation of UNMEE "untenable" because of the dangerous prevailing situation.

Full Text of Resolution 1670 (2006)

The Security Council,

Reaffirming all its previous resolutions and statements pertaining to the situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the requirements contained therein, including in particular resolutions 1640 (2005) of 23 November 2005 and 1661 (2006) of 14 March 2006, as well as the statement of its President of 24 February 2006 (S/PRST/2006/10),

Stressing its unwavering commitment to the peace process, and to the full and expeditious implementation of the Algiers Agreements,

Stressing further that lasting peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea (hereinafter referred to as "the parties") as well as in the region cannot be achieved without the full demarcation of the border between the two parties, and recalling that both parties have agreed to accept the determinations of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) as final and binding,

Reaffirming its strong commitment to ensure that the two parties permit the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) to perform its duties without restrictions and provide UNMEE with the necessary access, assistance, support and protection required for the performance of these duties, and in this regard stressing that demarcation of the border cannot proceed unless UNMEE is allowed full freedom of movement throughout its area of operations,

Welcoming once again the successful convening of the meeting of the Witnesses to the Algiers Agreements on 22 February 2006 in New York, as well as the convening of the EEBC meeting on 10 March 2006 in London and looking forward to the next EEBC meeting,

Stressing that the unacceptable restrictions on UNMEE, which must be lifted, have drastically reduced the operational capacity for the Mission and could lead to serious implications for the Mission's future,

Commending the role of UNMEE and expressing once again its deep appreciation for the contribution and dedication of the troop-contributing countries to the work of UNMEE, despite the immense difficulties which they are facing,

Mindful of the reports of the Secretary-General of 3 January 2006 (S/2006/1) and of 6 March 2006 (S/2006/140) and the options on the future of UNMEE contained therein,

1. Decides to extend the mandate of UNMEE for a period of one month, until 15 May 2006;

2. Demands that the parties fully comply with resolution 1640 (2005), in particular paragraphs 1 and 5;

3. Calls on Member States to provide continued support for UNMEE and contributions to the Trust Fund established pursuant to resolution 1177 (1998) and referred to in article 4 (17) of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea on 12 December 2000, in order to support the demarcation process;

4. Affirms its intention, in the event it determines that the parties have not demonstrated full compliance with resolution 1640 (2005) by the beginning of May 2006, to review the mandate and troop level of UNMEE by 15 May 2006, with a view to a decision on possible adjustments of UNMEE, as outlined in the Secretary-General's report dated 3 January 2006 (S/2006/1), including inter alia a transformation into an observer mission;

5. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Amin George Forji

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