Ethiopia and Eritrea
Expected Council Action
Another technical rollover of the mandate of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) now seems unlikely. The Council gave the parties a “last chance” in resolution 1670, which extended UNMEE until 15 May, and a major review of the size and mandate of UNMEE now seems inevitable.
At the time of writing, no substantive progress has been made on compliance with the requirements set by resolution 1640, including border demarcation and the lifting of restrictions on UNMEE. Unless there is a dramatic breakthrough in the coming days, options for reducing UNMEE will be on the table. Reducing UNMEE to an observer mission seems the most likely outcome.
There is much support for reducing UNMEE should the parties fail to start demarcating the border and lift all restrictions on the UN mission. However, it is still possible that some progress may still be made. If so, Council members may once again feel that additional time should be granted for negotiations.
Another option, especially if there are some signs of movement, may be to send a Council mission to the region.
The Council renewed UNMEE’s mandate on 13 April in resolution 1670. But Council members also signalled that a further renewal would depend on the parties’ compliance with the demands in resolution 1640 by the beginning of May. Resolution 1640 demanded that:
Eritrea “reverse, without further delay or preconditions, its decision to ban UNMEE helicopter flights, as well as additional restrictions imposed on the operations of UNMEE, and provide UNMEE with the access, assistance, support and protection required for the performance of its duties”; and
Ethiopia “accept fully and without further delay the final and binding decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) and take immediately concrete steps to enable, without preconditions, the Commission to demarcate the border completely and promptly.”
Resolution 1670 gives the parties a last chance to comply and also maintains pressure on Ethiopia and Eritrea. It also strongly signalled that the Council’s patience was near an end. Finally, it conveyed members’ sense of urgency by giving the parties less than a month to make progress on both issues.
A further EEBC meeting has been scheduled for 28 April, but at the time of writing there were indications it may be delayed. Prospects for compliance remain unclear at this point.
Both sides gave a very lukewarm response to the EEBC meeting on 10 March. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi reportedly stated that the EEBC was not a suitable forum for the border standoff. The legal advisor to the Ethiopian team at the EEBC meeting, Menilik Alemu, stated that “Ethiopia’s stand for the resolution of the border dispute is unchanged,” and that “[n]othing has been raised that obliged Ethiopia.”
Asmara remains frustrated with the continuation of the standoff, and with Ethiopia’s apparent freedom to flout international commitments. There is increasing concern that the Temporary Security Zone places an undue burden on Eritrea by keeping a large portion of Eritrean territory in a prolonged state of uncertainty. UNMEE’s original purpose is seen by the Eritrean government as having been “unwittingly” distorted.
Eritrea circulated a letter to UN Member States on 10 April, criticising the Council in particular for abrogating its responsibilities to enforce the “final and binding” EEBC decision and expressing criticism of any diplomatic initiative since it feels that would result in the alteration of the EEBC decision. Eritrea is particularly critical of the idea of appointing a Special Envoy. The EEBC process is seen by Asmara as a technical procedure that does not require further dialogue.
Eritrea nevertheless hopes that the US will be the main driver of a solution by encouraging changes to the Ethiopian position.
Despite its harsh tone, Asmara’s 10 April letter for the first time expressed an interest in a “genuine initiative” that would:
maintain respect for the EEBC decision first and foremost;
secure agreement to a demarcation that implements the delimitation decision in its integrity; and
establish details for the demarcation that would avoid delaying objections.
So far, however, there has been no signal from Addis Ababa as to its willingness to accept the EEBC decisions without conditions.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Presidential Statements|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Reports|
For the historical background, please refer to the February 2006 Forecast Report.
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Chief of Mission|
|Vacant, pending appointment|
|Size and Composition of Mission|
|Approved budget: 1 July 2005 – 30 June 2006: $185.99 million (gross)|
|31 July 2000 to present|