July 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 June 2007
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Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to limit its focus to the renewal of mandate of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), which expires on 31 July.  Some members may raise the possible implications of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC) deadline in November for demarcation of the border.

Key Recent Developments
A briefing on the Secretary-General’s progress report on UNMEE was given to the Council by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) on 8 May.  The report indicated, among other things, that:

  • additional restrictions had been imposed by Eritrea on UNMEE, and Ethiopia had denied access to certain Ethiopian Armed Forces posts;
  • no progress had been made on the implementation of the Boundary Commission Delimitation Decision of 13 April 2002 in view of the ongoing impasse between the two parties which led to rising tensions; 
  • the situation between the two parties remained unpredictable for the two countries, as well as the wider region; and
  • the drawdown of the UNMEE force was proceeding in compliance with resolutions 1741 and 1681.

A Council press statement was issued after the meeting:

  • conveying concern about stalemate in the peace process and the growing tension between the two countries;
  • reaffirming of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and urging both parties to withdraw their troops and equipment immediately from the zone;
  • acknowledging the Ethiopian government’s acceptance of the final binding decision of the EEBC and demanding Ethiopia’s full and early implementation of the decision;
  • supporting UNMEE and demanding that Eritrea reverse restrictions on UNMEE  and that both parties cooperate with UNMEE;
  • calling on both parties to exhibit maximum restraint and refrain from hostile public statements and any threat or use of force; and
  • welcoming and anticipating the Secretary-General’s continued efforts to engage with the two parties to normalise and stabilise their relations, including by appointing a new Special Representative.

Subsequent briefings by the Secretariat on 29 May and 11 June did not reveal any major changes in the situation. It remained tense with both countries engaging in heightened military activities in and around the TSZ.

In another development, the European Commission on 4 May, as part of moves to find a comprehensive solution to conflict in the region, seemed to signal a desire for better relations with Eritrea.  This action has been criticized by some NGOs critical of Eritrea’s human rights record.

On 15-16 June the Council mission visited Addis Ababa.  Discussions covered the importance of enhanced co-operation between the UN and the AU in the implementation of the decision of the EEBC.  In contacts with the parties, Council members stressed the need for commitment by both Ethiopia and Eritrea to the Algiers process.

After downsizing UNMEE earlier this year to convey its strong displeasure with the current impasse, the Council now has more limited options. These include:

  • encouraging an early appointment of a new Special Representative to head UNMEE to facilitate the process of finding a solution to the stalemate;
  • deciding to reassess the situation well before the EEBC’s November deadline as there is nervousness about the possible impact and implications, both prior and subsequent to November, if the current impasse persists; and
  • repeating its demand that Ethiopia accepts fully and without delay the boundary decision and the immediate withdrawal of Eritrea’s troops from the TSZ and lifting restrictions on UNMEE.

Key Issues
The renewal of the UNMEE mandate is not expected to be an issue in itself.  The key issue remains how best to steer Ethiopia and Eritrea towards improved relations, while keeping in view the November deadline set by the EEBC.  A related issue is the relationship between bilateral tensions and instability In the wider region, especially Somalia.  A major underlying issue is the lack of significant alternatives for resolving the deadlock.

Council Dynamics
At this stage the Council seems to prefer the cautious approach of keeping the parties engaged through calls for restraint and expression of concern with the ongoing tensions. No major disagreement is therefore anticipated regarding the renewal of UNMEE’s mandate.  However, some members are likely to raise the possible implications of the EEBC deadline for November and possibly express concern about the increasing tensions characterizing the present impasse. 

UNMEE’s renewal could potentially reopen past debates among Council members on both Ethiopia’s compliance with the decision by the Boundary Commission setting up the Ethiopia-Eritrea border and on whether UNMEE troop levels should be further reduced in view of Eritrea’s restrictions on the mission.  However, it does not seem that any Council members want to push the issues, perhaps reflecting acceptance of the need for some UN presence to help deter a resumption of hostilities.  (For more details, please see our May 2007 Forecast). 

An element that may influence Council members are concerns of troop-contributing countries. Some are very unhappy about the current restrictions placed on the personnel of UNMEE. 

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UN Documents

 Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1741 (30 January 2007) extended UNMEE until 31 July and approved the drawdown.
  • S/RES/1312 (31 July 2000) established UNMEE.
 Selected Letters
  • S/2007/366 (15 June 2007) contained Eritrea’s position on the border conflict.
  • S/2007/350 (8 June 2007) contained Ethiopia’s position in the April progress report of the Secretary-General and 8 May press statement of the Council.
  • S/2007/267 (8 May 2007) contained Eritrea’s position certain issues in the April 2007 progress report of the Secretary-General.
  • S/2007/4 (4 January 2007) contained Eritrea’s position on certain points in the December special report of the Secretary-General.
  • S/2006/1036 (28 December 2006) contained Eritrea’s position on the appointment of a Special Representative.
  • S/2006/890 (15 November 2006) and 905 (20 November 2006) contained respectively Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s position on the EEBC’s intention to convene a meeting on options for moving the demarcation process forward.
 Selected Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2007/250 (30 April 2007) progress report of the Secretary-General indicating the continuation of the impasse in the peace process.
  • S/2007/33 (22 January 2007) it included a strong response from the EEBC to criticisms made by Ethiopia in its November 2006 letter.
  • S/2006/992 (15 December 2006) contained options for UNMEE and the November EEBC decision.

Other Relevant Facts

 Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Chief of Mission
 Vacant, pending appointment; acting SRSG Azowz Ennifar (Tunisia)
 Size and Composition of Mission
  • Authorised maximum strength: 2,300 military personnel
  • Strength as of 31 May 2007:1,681 military personnel
  • Key troop contributing countries: India, Jordan and Kenya.
 Approved budget: 1 July 2006 – 30 June 2007: $137.39 million
 31 July 2000 to present; mandate expires 31 July

Full forecast

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