Global Policy Forum

Ethiopia Disputes UN Border


By Nita Bhalla

June 29, 2001

Ethiopia has rejected a United Nations map that marks the buffer zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The UN plan aims to separate the two countries' armies after a bloody two-and-a-half year war. Ethiopia says the boundaries demarcated on the map are inconsistent with what was agreed with the UN.

The war, which officially ended in December 2000, was fought over the exact location of the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia, thus making any map controversial. The UN Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (Unmee) said when it issued the map that it expected some objections, but hoped the two countries would respect it as "a wonderful gesture of support for the confidence-building process".

Ethiopian Foreign Affairs spokesman Yemane Kidane said: "The map is incorrect and therefore cannot be accepted by the Ethiopian government. The UN should withdraw it immediately and come up with a new one."

Mr Kidane said there were two main points on the map that concerned the Ethiopian authorities. Firstly, the eastern sector, known as the Bure Front, includes eight km of Ethiopian territory, which should not be in the buffer zone, as these are positions Ethiopia occupied prior to the war, which began in May 1998. Secondly, Mr Kidane said that in the northern area of Irob, the zone is only 12km deep, when it should be the artillery range distance of 25km.

The Ethiopian official said that on both these points, the UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea was violating the Algiers peace agreement signed by the two sides. Sources in the government said the UN map could create "an atmosphere for tension, which could escalate into something much more serious".

Unmee has not made the map public, so it is difficult to check Ethiopia's complaints. Unmee says the map is simply an administrative tool rather than a statement of fact about the position of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

UN peacekeeping soldiers are currently policing the buffer zone after troops from both armies pulled back from the front line. The final decision on the border is the subject of investigation by a completely separate body.

More Information on Ethiopia and Eritrea


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