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Over 700 blue helmets relocated out of Eritrea

11 March 2008 – More than 700 peacekeepers have been temporarily relocated to their home countries from Eritrea, the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) reported.

A total of 397 Jordanian blue helmets and 305 Indian troops have returned to their respective countries, and the Mission notes that more flights out of Asmara are scheduled for next week to fly remaining UN personnel in Eritrea home.

The decision to temporarily move UN personnel and equipment out of Eritrea was made last month after the country cut off fuel supplies to UNMEE, paralyzing the operation on that side of the disputed border with Ethiopia.

In a report to the Security Council made public last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Eritrea’s restrictions on the mission’s activities breach the fundamental principles of peacekeeping and raise serious implications for the safety and security of blue helmets deployed around the world.

Calling the country’s hindrance of the temporary relocation of peacekeepers “unacceptable,” Mr. Ban wrote that Eritrea has an obligation under an agreement signed in 2000 to treat the peacekeepers with respect and dignity, guarantee their safety and security, and ensure their right to move freely and perform their mandated tasks.

But instead Eritrea had placed the mission in an “untenable situation” by repeatedly obstructing the blue helmets' relocation efforts, the Secretary-General said.

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