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UN terminates mission at Ethiopia-Eritrea border

Latest update : 2008-07-30

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution terminating the mandate of the 1,700-strong UN mission monitoring the border dispute (UNMEE) between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which expires Thursday.

  
The Security Council voted unanimously Wednesday to end UN monitoring of the festering border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia but urged the bitter rivals to refrain from any use of force.

The 15-member council adopted a Belgian-drafted resolution terminating the mandate of the 1,700-strong UN mission monitoring the border dispute (UNMEE), which expires Thursday.

Resolution 1827 calls on the two Horn of Africa rivals "to show maximum restraint and refrain from any threat or use of force against each other and to avoid provocative military activities."

The council decision came in response to crippling restrictions imposed by Eritrea on the operation of UNMEE and Ethiopia's refusal to recognize a binding verdict by an international boundary panel that granted the flashpoint border town of Badme to Eritrea.

Under a 2000 Algiers peace deal which ended their two-year border war, Eritrea and Ethiopia had pledged to accept as "final and binding" a verdict by the panel on their dispute.

Belgium's UN Ambassador Jan Grauls said the UNMEE's mission was being terminated "unfortunately, not because its mandate has been implemented but because its mandate has become impossible to implement."

He added that only Addis Ababa and Asmara "can decide to exit the vicious cycle by ending the sterile game of mutual accusations and by choosing, in the primary interest of their people and in the interest of peace in the Horn of Africa, the path of dialogue."

UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed hope that the parties would be able "to break the current stalemate and create conditions necessary for the normalization of their relations, which is key to peace and stability in the region."

And he reaffirmed that his offer of good offices "remains available to the parties to help them implement the Algiers Agreements."

"Eritrea has made it impossible for the force to continue its mission," France's deputy ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix told reporters, adding that the council had vainly tried to explore ways in which an international presence could be maintained.

Resolution 1827 stresses that the termination is "without prejudice to Ethiopia and Eritrea's obligation under the (2000) Algiers agreements."

The text also directs the UN chief to further explore "with Ethiopia and Eritrea the possibility of a United Nations presence in Ethiopia and Eritrea in the context of the maintenance of international peace and security."

Last May, the council unanimously slammed Eritrea for cutting off diesel supplies to the UN mission, forcing it to pull out of the country.

Faced with Eritrea's fuel and other restrictions, Ban in April laid out several options to deal with the impasse.

These include the full withdrawal of the UN mission from the border area, or a less drastic option of deploying a "small observer mission" which would try to defuse tensions and serve as "the eyes and ears of the international community."

Asmara, which claims that the United Nations sides with Ethiopia in the dispute, has repeatedly accused its bigger and more powerful neighbor of bracing for a new war.

Addis Ababa has dismissed the charge as a bid by Eritrea to divert attention from its internal problems.

Since 2000, UNMEE has been tasked with monitoring the tense Eritrean-Ethiopian border along which a total of some 200,000 troops from both sides are now deployed, fueling fears of a new flare-up.

The two Horn of Africa neighbors fought a devastating 1998-2000 war which left 70,000 people dead.

Since it barred UNMEE from conducting helicopter flights and limited its night ground operations in 2005, Eritrea has stepped up its restrictions which some diplomats saw as a bid to put more pressure on the international community to force Ethiopia to accept the boundary decision.

Date created : 2008-07-30