UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea to close

30 Jul 2008

UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea to close

Addis Ababa, 30 July 2008 - Military and civilian peacekeepers with the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) will begin the formal liquidation of their headquarters in Asmara and Addis Ababa as of midnight Thursday.

With the Security Council's decision not to renew UNMEE's mandate beyond 31 July, the peacekeepers will remove the remaining equipment and assets belonging to the UN and military contingents that kept watch over the Algiers Peace Agreements signed by Ethiopia and Eritrea in June and December 2000.

UNMEE troops and equipment owned by military contingents have already left Eritrea. Military operations ended there in February 2008 after Eritrea stopped the supply of diesel fuel to the Mission on 1 December 2007, forcing a reduction in the Mission's observer capacity which relied heavily on ground transportation. The supply cut also threatened electricity generation for field communications and the refrigeration of food and medical supplies. Determining that this jeopardized the security and safety of the peacekeepers, the Secretary-General ordered the Mission to relocate from 32 observer posts and teamsites in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) stretching from Djibouti to Sudan.

Over a period of seven and a half years, peacekeeping troops and unarmed military observers from some 46 countries served in the mission. About 320 military personnel remain on the Ethiopian side, but it is anticipated they will leave by the end of August after four remaining observer team sites have been dismantled. UNMEE currently has about 130 civilian staff in Ethiopia and 250 in Eritrea.

In a statement attributable to UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, his Spokesperson said the Security Council had taken its decision after both parties rejected options for a possible follow-on presence.

"The Secretary-General regrets this decision by the parties, but welcomes the decision of the Council to continue to remain actively seized of the matter," the Spokesperson said. "He also expresses hope that the parties would be able break the current stalemate and create conditions necessary for the normalization of their relations, which is key to peace and stability in the region. The Secretary-General reaffirms that his offer of good offices remains available to the parties to help them implement the Algiers Agreements."

UNMEE's Acting Special Representative (Mr. Azouz Ennifar) today praised the work of the several thousand men and women who served in UNMEE over the life of the Mission. "They can be proud of the jobs they did," he said. "The Mission was sent at the request of both countries to keep the peace after a two-year war (1998-2000) claimed at least 70,000 Ethiopian and Eritrean lives. It was a difficult mission in geographically harsh locations, but the men and women who served with UNMEE did not flinch." Mr. Ennifar said that peace was sustained throughout the period UNMEE was operational. "The peacekeepers have done their best and the UN will continue to offer its good offices to any efforts that Ethiopia and Eritrea make to resolve their differences."