Global Policy Forum

UN Won't Renew Arms Embargo

Associated Press
May 15, 2001

The U.N. Security Council will not extend a year-long arms embargo against Ethiopia and Eritrea that expires at midnight Wednesday, but warned the Horn of Africa neighbors that it would take action if their border war erupts again.

The council imposed the embargo on May 17, 2000, to pressure the warring neighbors to make peace. A month later, Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed to stop fighting and on Dec. 12 their presidents signed a formal peace agreement in Algeria, ending the 2 1/2-year conflict.

In a statement Tuesday, the Security Council emphasized the countries' commitments to peace and said that ``under the current circumstances'' the arms embargo was not being extended. The embargo expires as of 12:01 a.m. EDT Thursday.

The U.N. sanctions barred all countries and individuals from selling or supplying weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and equipment to either country. Military-related training and technical assistance also were prohibited. The council on Tuesday urged both countries to redirect their efforts from buying weapons to reconstruction and development of their economies and regional reconciliation. ``The Security Council remains vigilant and expresses its intention to take appropriate measures if the situation between Eritrea and Ethiopia again threatens regional peace and security,'' the statement said.

Last week, the council expressed concern at Eritrea's failure to guarantee freedom of movement to U.N. troops and its deployment of a large number of militia in the demilitarized zone along the contested border with Ethiopia. The 4,200-strong U.N. force is charged with overseeing the safe return of displaced people to their homes in the buffer zone and providing security for an international team that is to draw the official border.

The council statement read by acting U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham, the current council president, called on Ethiopia and Eritrea ``to fully cooperate'' with the boundary commission. He said the Security Council committee monitoring the sanctions will investigate whether a Ukrainian cargo plane seized in Bulgaria last month with more than 30 tons of weapons violated the arms embargo. It was reportedly heading to Eritrea. ``The sanctions committee will be sending out inquiries to the various countries involved asking for information,'' Cunningham said.

The administration of former President Bill Clinton wanted to lift the arms ban immediately after the peace agreement was signed in December, but failed twice because of opposition from some council members. Bush's administration dropped the demand. Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in a 1993 referendum that followed a 30-year guerrilla war, but the 620-mile border was never officially demarcated. War broke out in May 1998, and tens of thousands of troops were killed on both sides.

More Information on Ethiopia and Eritrea
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