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Situation remains tense on Eritrean-Ethiopian border, UN mission reports

25 November 2005 A day after the Security Council threatened possible sanctions against Eritrea and Ethiopia, the United Nations mission there reported that the military situation remained tense, and Ethiopian troops had earlier briefly violated a separation zone between the two countries, which fought a border war from 1998 to 2000.

Troop movements had been observed on both the Ethiopian and Eritrean sides of the border and the ban imposed by the Eritrean Government on UN helicopters was still in place, UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) spokeswoman Gail Bindley-Taylor-Sainte told a news briefing yesterday.

She said Ethiopian troops over the weekend occupied Point 885, a mountain peak in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) that UNMEE vacated after the Eritrean helicopter ban. UNMEE asked the Ethiopians to leave and they moved out on Wednesday.

“Any violation of the Temporary Security Zone is of concern to us, it doesn’t matter how tiny it may be,” Ms. Bindley-Taylor-Sainte said. “Any violation of the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone is of the utmost importance to UNMEE because it directly affects our mandate, which is to monitor and verify the redeployment of the troops of both parties and to maintain the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone.”

On Wednesday the Security Council threatened actions – which could include sanctions – if, in the case of Eritrea, it does not immediately rescind its ban on United Nations flights in its airspace, and against both parties if they do not reverse their military build up.

It also demanded that Ethiopia accept the agreed-upon Boundary Commission's final and binding decisions concerning the demarcation of the border between the two countries, and that both parties return to their December 2004 levels of troop deployment within 30 days, refraining from threats or the use of force.

Last month, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned that the situation could lead to another round of “devastating hostilities.” The Eritrean flight ban has forced UNMEE to evacuate 18 of its posts in the TSZ and endangered peacekeepers who need to be evacuated for medical treatment, forcing them to take the long land route.

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