- In what the UN calls a "major ceasefire breach", Eritrea has moved some 1,500 troops and 14 tanks into the UN monitored buffer zone that separates it from Ethiopia. The zone has been demilitarised for six years, following a ceasefire in 2000. The deployment comes as Ethiopian troops are being bound in Somalia, while Eritrea supplies Somali Islamist with arms.
By moving troops into the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between the Horn rivals of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Asmara government had committed a "major ceasefire breach", the UN reported today. Some 1,500 troops backed by 14 tanks had been sent into the TSZ from Eritrea, UN officials had registered.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Eritrea to withdraw its troops from the Zone immediately. The UN peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) reported that the Eritrean forces took over one of its checkpoints in Sector West.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr Annan voiced deep concern at the incursion. "This development constitutes a major breach of the ceasefire and the integrity of the TSZ," the statement said. "It could seriously jeopardise the peace process and undermine the Algiers Agreements between Ethiopia and Eritrea, with potential consequences for the wider region," he added.
The UN Secretary-General urged the government of Eritrea "to withdraw its troops from the Zone immediately, and to cooperate with the United Nations in restoring the ceasefire arrangements," the spokesman added.
The advance of Eritrean troops into the demilitarised zone comes as Ethiopia is turning its military focus on Somalia, where the Addis Ababa government has promised to aid the fragile transition government in fighting the Islamist movement's advance. Ethiopian troops are reported to be on Somali soil, protecting the internationally recognised government.
Eritrea, on the other hand, is reported to have breached the UN arms embargo on Somalia by supplying weapons to the well-funded Islamists. Analysts earlier pointed out that this was an effort to distract Ethiopian forces from its ongoing conflict with Eritrea and incite a second front in Somalia.
At the same time, Ethiopia for the first times in centuries is experiencing violence between Muslims and Christians in what seems to be well planned actions to cause hatred between the country's two major religious groups.
Analysts fear that a large-scale war may be at it beginnings on the African Horn, with Islamist forces backed by Eritrea on one side and Ethiopia, non-recognised Somaliland and Somalia's transitional government on the other side. War threats have come from all these parties.
Especially the age-old conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea has never come to a conclusion and is still inciting hatred. The two countries fought a bitter border war from 1998 to 2000 that killed an estimated 80,000 people and ended in a ceasefire signed in Algiers in 2000.
UNMEE since that has overseen the fragile peace, but both countries have actively hindered a lasting peace. Ethiopia has refused to implement the binding conclusions of an international border commission, while Eritrea is restricting UNMEE's mobility and ability to monitor half the security zone. Both are serious breaches of the Algiers agreement. UNMEE currently fields nearly 2,300 military personnel in the zone.
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