November 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2007
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AFRICA

Ethiopia/Eritrea

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) in early November. The impending deadline set by the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC) for demarcating the borders between the two countries is also likely to come up in informal consultations. A presidential or a press statement is possible. UNMEE’s mandate expires on 31 January 2008.

Key Recent Developments
The stalemate and mounting tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea remain. Both sides exchanged accusations during the annual general debate of the General Assembly. On 1 October, the foreign minister of Eritrea reiterated that Ethiopia had been allowed to frustrate the implementation of the EEBC “because of the unwarranted positions of some UN Security Council Member States,” and that the Council had chosen to placate Ethiopia at the expense of international law and the interests of regional peace and security. He called on the UN to ensure the implementation of the final border decision and said that Eritrea had learned of a letter from Ethiopia indicating that it intended to renounce the Algiers Agreements (which ended hostilities between the two countries and set the framework for settlement of the border dispute). In response, Ethiopia’s representative dismissed the accusations as “baseless”, while counter-accusing Eritrea of being an obstacle to the full implementation of the Algiers Agreements and the EEBC decision. This oral exchange reflected more detailed positions in recent letters to the Security Council in late September and October.

In a related development, the yet to be released twenty-fifth report of the EEBC to the Secretary-General was reported to have been publicised on an Eritrean government website. This drew strong reactions from Ethiopia, which indicated that it had not yet been formally furnished with a copy and that Eritrea sought to manipulate the disclosure for its own ends.

On 11 October, the Secretary-General issued a press statement (SG/SM/11215) on the escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, including shooting incidents, as well as the military build-up in the border area. He called on them to exercise utmost restraint, maintain their commitment to the Algiers Agreements, preserve the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and facilitate the implementation of the delimitation decision of the EEBC.

(For more information on recent developments please see our October 2007 Forecast Report.)

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council remains how best to steer Ethiopia and Eritrea towards reduced tensions. A related issue is whether the 27 November deadline set by the EEBC for compliance-after which it will formally delineate the boundary by coordinates (i.e. using maps and not by actual placing of pillars on the ground)-will further heighten tensions. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have expressed strong reservations about such a “virtual” demarcation by the EEBC. The links between bilateral tensions and instability in the wider region, especially Somalia are also a key issue. Finally, a further key issue is the Ethiopian threat to withdraw from the Algiers Agreement.

Options
The Council’s options include:

  • reassessing the situation before the EEBC’s 27 November deadline and taking decisive action if it considers the situation likely to deteriorate significantly;
  • continuing to persist with a more low key approach based on encouraging the parties to continue to adhere to the requirements of the Algiers agreement and perhaps invoking again the prestige of the witnesses to the Algiers Agreement (Algeria, the AU, the EU and the US);
  • intensifying 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 and in particular addressing the threats of withdrawal from the Algiers Agreement;
  • encouraging use of available avenues, including using non-Council members with influence in the region to engage both parties to find a closure to the issue;
  • encouraging the appointment of a new Special Representative (the post has been vacant since May 2006) to facilitate finding a solution to the impasse; and
  • mandating its Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations to take up the issue and encouraging the Group to meet regularly with the two countries.


Council Dynamics

It seems that Council members are concerned about the implications of the approaching EEBC November deadline but not to the extent that they consider that it will of itself precipitate hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea or any fundamental change in the dynamics of the situation. Most members seem to continue to prefer a low key approach of repeating calls for restraint and expressing concern with ongoing tensions. But some may be looking for new options in light of the failure of past alternatives.

UNMEE’s deterrent role has been generally appreciated by the Council, and most members see it continuing to be useful in demonstrating its commitment to peaceful resolution of the dispute, despite the operational challenges affecting the implementation of its monitoring mandate.

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

Underlying Problems

Potential for violent conflict remains if the deterrent effect of UNMEE is removed or if the Algiers commitment fails.

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/2007/660 (8 November 2007) contained Eritrea’s position in regards to the EEBC.
  • S/2007/580 (28 September 2007) contained Eritrea’s position regarding Ethiopia’s perspective on its perceived breaches of the Algiers Agreements.
  • 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.
Secretary General’s Press Release
  • SG/SM/11215 (11 October 2007) was a press release expressing concern over rising tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

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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