November 7th, 2007 13:42 EST
Military build-up continues on Ethiopia-Eritrea border
The continuing tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the failure to resolve their longstanding boundary dispute and the military build-up along their common border are causes for serious concern, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states in a new report.
“There is no other option but for the two parties to find common ground that would allow the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission to proceed with the demarcation of the border,” Mr. Ban writes in his latest report to the Security Council.
The Secretary-General notes that a meeting of the two parties with the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, held in The Hague in September, had failed to resolve the impasse between the two Horn of Africa neighbours on the demarcation of the boundary. The Boundary Commission handed down a final and binding decision in 2002.
He reports that even as Ethiopia says that it has accepted the 2002 border delimitation decision without preconditions, the country continues to assert that the security conditions for demarcation of the border do not exist.
“I urge the parties to extend full cooperation to the Commission, without further delay, with a view to proceeding to the boundary demarcation on the basis of the Commission’s 2002 delimitation decision,” Mr. Ban writes.
The situation in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and the border region between the two countries remains “tense,” the Secretary-General adds, noting that Eritrea has moved in more than 2,500 troops and heavy military equipment into the Zone, while both countries have conducted military exercises along the border.
In addition, Eritrean restrictions on UN peacekeepers and helicopter flights continue, and the UN mission deployed in the Zone – known as UNMEE – has been unable to convey a meeting of the Military Coordination Commission since July 2006.
Citing the need to preserve the integrity of the TSZ, Mr. Ban calls on Eritrea to withdraw its forces and military equipment from the Zone and to lift its restrictions on UNMEE.
He also urges the parties to reactivate the Military Coordination Commission, which provides “a unique framework for dialogue between military representatives of the two parties to peacefully address issues of border security.”
Expressing serious concern about the continued military build-up in the border area, which has already resulted in shooting incidents that underscore the risk of further miscalculation, Mr. Ban calls on both parties to exercise the utmost restraint, and to pull back their forces and reduce military activities in the border area.
He also urges them to fully comply with the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities and the Peace Agreement – signed by the parties in Algiers in 2000 and which ended the war between them – noting that the accords remain “the only basis for the peaceful resolution of the border conflict and the establishment of a lasting peace between the two countries.”
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