Expected Council Action
A rollover of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) mandate is expected. The report of the Secretary-General on UNMEE is expected in mid-September.
In addition, the Peacekeeping Operation (PKO) Working Group under Japan’s chairmanship may discuss UNMEE before the expiry of its mandate on 30 September.
Key Recent Developments
Eritrea boycotted the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC) talks on 15 June after the Boundary Commission suggested possible amendments to the demarcation decisions of 2003. Eritrea, in a letter to the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission, rejected the amendments as giving concessions to Ethiopia. The standoff continues. Ethiopia still refuses to accept the final decision of the EEBC on border demarcation. Eritrea is not willing to lift the restrictions on UNMEE until demarcation commences.
The Council received a midterm oral briefing on UNMEE on 27 July by Dmitry Titov, director of the Africa division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. He reported on progress with the force drawdown and that the position of the two parties had not changed. At the time of writing, downsizing of the mission was expected to be completed by 31 August.
The EEBC talks scheduled for 24 August took place without Ethiopia and Eritrea since the two parties did not respond positively to the invitation.
The most likely option is a simple rollover of UNMEE with language exhorting the parties to resolve the underlying issues. The Council is preoccupied with other events and there is little appetite to further reconfigure UNMEE.
Other possibilities are:
extend UNMEE’s mandate for a short period as a possible stimulus for the parties to meet;
set a deadline for resumption of demarcation with the understanding that harsher measures would then be a possible option. (Resolution 1640 indicated that the Council would consider “further appropriate measures” under article 41 of the UN Charter.)
A key issue in the minds of Council members is not only the risk of renewed conflict on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, but also the risk of their involvement either directly or by proxy in neighbouring Somalia.
The issue of finding a way to break the current deadlock remains critical. However, since the Council took the decision to downsize UNMEE on 31 May there has been no progress on the border demarcation or lifting the restrictions on UNMEE. The US has continued its diplomatic initiative but with little impact. Eritrea is increasingly expressing unhappiness at a perceived bias towards Ethiopia.
Another pressing issue is how much longer the Council can afford to keep committing resources to this situation. With pressing needs for troop generation in other parts of the world, more Council members may become open to a further downsizing or withdrawing in order to free up resources. A related issue that may affect the size and mandate of UNMEE is the suggestion, which has come up in discussions among Council members, that the three peacekeeping missions in the Horn of Africa should work together.
A possible future issue is the reaction of troop contributing countries (TCCs). Already curtailed, and possibly endangered by Eritrea’s restrictions, some TCCs show increasing frustration with the Council’s inability to change the situation.
Some pressure from the US, and perhaps from France, to further downsize UNMEE is possible. But most members do not feel the time is right for major changes to its size or mandate. Council members like Japan and the UK are keen to ensure that UNMEE is able to carry out its tasks effectively, particularly given the situation in neighbouring Somalia. Both China and Russia appear cautious about further downsizing. Greece, the lead country on this issue, is also keen to maintain the status quo for now.
The Council is therefore still divided on how to handle this situation in the long-term. The lack of movement has left many Council members reluctant to commit further energy and resources. Members have been waiting to see if the downsizing will affect the parties and also its impact on UNMEE’s ability to carry out its mandate. The latter issue, expected to be addressed by the Secretary-General, is likely to be the major factor in considering further changes.
The alleged involvement of Ethiopia and Eritrea in Somalia’s internal conflict has led to concerns that the conflict in Somalia could escalate into a regional conflict. Proxy activities in Somalia may have kept Ethiopia and Eritrea occupied, perhaps creating the illusion that their border area is relatively calm. In the longer-term, however, it could mean greater instability for the Horn of Africa as a whole.
The combination of a smaller troop size with the continuing restrictions imposed on UNMEE could lead to difficulties in maintaining the security of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Reports|
| Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Chief of Mission
|Vacant, pending appointment|
| Size and Composition of Mission
|Approved budget: 1 July 2006 – 30 June 2007: $182.24 million (gross)|
|31 July 2000 to present; current mandate expires 30 September 2006|