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UN reports troop movements on both sides of Eritrean-Ethiopian border

1 December 2005 Troop movements have been noticed on both sides of the Eritrean-Ethiopian border, where the two countries fought a war from 1998 to 2000, and where restrictions on United Nations peacekeeping patrols continue, with many being prevented from going off main roads to carry out their monitoring functions.

In the latest update on the tense situation following an Eritrean ban on UN helicopter flights in the so-called Temporary Security Zone (TSZ), the force commander of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), Maj. Gen. Rajender Singh, told a news briefing he was negotiating with Ethiopian military leaders on a withdrawal of their troops to December 16, 2004, levels as called for by Security Council resolution 1640.

The resolution, adopted unanimously by the 15-member body last week, threatened action, which could include sanctions, against Eritrea and Ethiopia if, in the case of Eritrea, it does not immediately rescind its flight ban, and against both parties if they do not reverse their military build up.

Maj. Gen. Singh said he was hopeful for a positive response from the Ethiopians and also intended to meet with the Eritrean Defence Forces leadership on compliance with the resolution.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned that the situation could lead to another round of "devastating hostilities," which ended following the Algiers peace accords of 2000. Apart from forcing UNMEE to evacuate 18 posts in the TSZ, the ban has endangered peacekeepers who need to be evacuated for medical treatment, forcing them to take the long land route.

In its resolution, the Council also demanded that Ethiopia accept the final and binding decisions of the Boundary Commission to which the two governments themselves entrusted the entire demarcation of their border.



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