October 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2007
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AFRICA

Ethiopia/Eritrea

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to receive the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), and may subsequently issue either a presidential or press statement.  UNMEE’s mandate expires on 31 January 2008.

Recent Developments
On 31 July the Council adopted resolution 1767 which, among other things, reiterated its demand that Eritrea immediately withdraw its troops from the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and reverse all restrictions on UNMEE. It also called on Ethiopia to reduce the number of additional forces introduced in areas adjacent to the Zone.  It expressed regret at the lack of progress on demarcation, and called upon the parties to implement the delimitation decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) and to participate constructively in the 6 September meeting to be convened by that body in New York.

The EEBC meeting on 6 September was moved to The Hague after objections by Ethiopia.  It was convened to advance the demarcation process but failed to make any progress. The Commission subsequently stated that it will announce the demarcation of the borders by map coordinates at the end of November.  Ethiopia said this was unacceptable.

Tensions increased in September following reports that Ethiopian and Eritrean troops were face to face in the TSZ.  The high-profile meeting in Asmara of Somali factions threatening to forcibly eject Ethiopian forces from Mogadishu further highlighted the regional dimensions of the tensions.

On 25 September there were reports of an Ethiopian notification to Asmara, declaring Eritrea in material breach of the 2000 Algiers agreement pursuant to which the EEBC was established; subsequently, Ethiopia said this allowed it to terminate or suspend the agreement. 

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is how best to steer Ethiopia and Eritrea towards reduced tensions, mindful of the November deadline set by the EEBC. 

Other issues include links between bilateral tensions and instability in the wider region, especially Somalia, and the failure of past alternatives for resolving the deadlock.

Options
The Council’s options include:

  • deciding to reassess the situation soon-and certainly well before the EEBC’s November deadline-because of the possible impact and implications if the current stalemate persists;
  • working to deter Ethiopia from further threats vis-à-vis the Algiers agreement;
  • maintaining its earlier position by simply repeating its demands for Ethiopia to accept fully and without delay the boundary decision and for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrea’s troops from the TSZ and for lifting restrictions on UNMEE;
  • encouraging the appointment of a new Special Representative (the post has been vacant since May 2006) to head UNMEE to facilitate the process of finding a solution to the impasse; and
  • mandating its working group on peacekeeping operations to take up the issue as a matter of urgency and encouraging the working group to meet regularly with the two countries.

Council Dynamics
Some Council members see the value of early action to address the implications of the approaching EEBC November deadline and the tensions resulting from the lack of progress.

But until now, most members seem to have preferred the cautious approach of repeating calls for restraint and expressions of concern with the ongoing tensions. 

Despite challenges posed to the implementation of UNMEE’s monitoring mandate, its deterrent role has been generally recognised by the Council and serves to demonstrate its commitment to peaceful resolution of the dispute. 

Belgium is the lead country in the Council on the issue.

Underlying Problems
The prospect of violent conflict remains if the deterrent effect of UNMEE is removed and if the Algiers commitment collapses. The ongoing combination of smaller troop size and restrictions imposed on UNMEE could lead to more difficulties in maintaining the security of the TSZ between the parties.

UN Documents

 Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1767 (30 July 2007) extended UNMEE’s mandate until 31 January 2008.
  • S/RES/1741(30 January 2007) extended UNMEE until 31 July 2007 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 on the April progress report of the Secretary-General and 8 May press statement of the Council.
  • 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/2007/440 (18 July 2007) was the latest UNMEE report.
  • S/2007/33 (22 January 2007) included the EEBC response to criticisms by Ethiopia from 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 representative Azouz Ennifar (Tunisia)
 Size and Composition
  • Authorised maximum strength: 4,200 military personnel
  • Strength as of 31 August 2007:1,688 military personnel
  • Key troop-contributing countries: India, Jordan and Kenya
 Cost
 Approved budget: 1 July 2007-30 June 2008: $118.99 million
 Duration
 31 July 2000 to present; mandate expires 31 January 2008

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