Global Policy Forum

Eritrea-Ethiopia: Border Deadlock

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
March 9, 2004

Escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea are threatening their current military stability, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Monday. He said there had been a "gradual deterioration" in cooperation between the two countries and the 4,000 UN peacekeepers in the region.

Annan's comments come just one week before the UN Security Council convenes to discuss the renewal of a six-month mandate for the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).

The 13-page report said that because of "heightening tensions", which are being fuelled by a lack of political progress, UNMEE -costing US $15 million a month - should remain in place. "The current stalemate is a source of instability and therefore has the potential to become dangerous," Annan warned.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bloody two-and-a-half-year war over their 1,000-km border, ending in a peace accord signed in Algiers in 2000. Under the deal, an independent boundary commission was set up to defuse tensions by demarcating the border. The commission issued its ruling in April 2002, but this was rejected by Ethiopia because it placed Badme, a symbolic border town over which the war had broken out, in Eritrea.

Ethiopia's reaction created a deadlock, prompting the boundary commission to suspend its operations. UN peacekeepers have since been preserving a fragile peace between the two countries.

Annan's report urged Ethiopia to reconsider its position. "In order to keep the peace process on track, it would be very helpful if Ethiopia would restate unequivocally its support for the Boundary Commission's decision and demonstrate its commitment to the demarcation process by allowing it to go ahead," the report said.

Annan added that he was "saddened" by Eritrea's decision not to meet UN Special Envoy Lloyd Axworthy, who visited the region last month to try and end the stalemate. "I reiterate my strong appeal to the two parties, in particular Eritrea, to give my Special Envoy the opportunity to meet and discuss with their leadership how best my good offices could help them to overcome the impasse in the implementation of the Algiers Agreement."

Both Eritrea and Ethiopia had imposed restrictions on the UN peacekeeping force's freedom of movement, thereby reducing its effectiveness, the report noted. It was "urgent and critical" for UNMEE to receive full cooperation, it said.

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on Ethiopia and Eritrea


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