- The tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia is rapidly building up. Now, also the UN peacekeepers stationed along the border between the two neighbours is warning about possible war preparations as their movements are more and more limited.
Less than a week after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that a serious deterioration between Ethiopia and Eritrea could lead to "another round of devastating hostilities," the peacekeeping mission monitoring a ceasefire between the two countries reported today that the situation on the ground is "tense".
The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) said restrictions on its freedom of movement were continuing in both the central and western sectors on the Eritrean side following the recent ban imposed by the Asmara government on UN helicopters.
Night movement of patrols is also being curtailed, seriously limiting the mission's ability to monitor the remaining 40 percent of the Temporary Security Zone and adjacent areas, UNMEE representatives said in a statement.
Last week, Mr Annan had called on the UN Security Council to ensure that the Eritrean restrictions are lifted. At the same time he urged the 15-member body to address the underlying causes of the stalemate in the peace process between the two countries, which fought a fierce border war from 1988 to 2000, including Ethiopia's opposition to significant parts of the agreed Boundary Commission's binding demarcation decisions.
He said the helicopter ban was severely hampering UNMEE's ability to monitor the ceasefire, forcing the evacuation of 18 of 40 locations that had become no longer operationally viable.
The expensive five-year-old UN mission has not been allowed to do its work, despite the peace agreements signed by both countries, calling for the establishment of UNMEE. In particular Eritrea has kept a conflict profile with the UN peacekeepers, even accusing UNMEE of provoking instability. UNMEE on several occasions has threatened to withdraw.
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