UN troops quit western Eritrea

The council stressed it intends to keep up a military presence in Eritrea despite the shift.

“The Security Council has agreed, in consultation with the (UN) Secretary General (Kofi Annan), to temporarily relocate military and civilian staff of the United Nations Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) from Eritrea to Ethiopia,” announced the council president for December, ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of Britain.

The council slammed Eritrea’s “unacceptable restrictions” on the UNMEE and renewed its demand that they be rescinded.

The council warned that failure to do so would have “implications for the UNMEE’s future”, a hint of a possible withdrawal of the UN force.

It said the UN planned to “review promptly all options for UNMEE’s deployments and functions.”

The council said the decision to relocate the peacekeepers stemmed from Eritrea’s lack of cooperation with the UNMEE, conditions on the ground and the inability of the UNMEE to implement its mandate fully.

Government order

The government in Asmara has given no sign it is willing to rescind its December 6 order for US, Canadian, European and Russian peacekeepers monitoring the tense Eritrean-Ethiopian border to leave Eritrea within 10 days.

The Eritrean order targeted about 160 Western UNMEE civilian personnel and military observers, however, the majority of troops come from India, Jordan, Kenya and Bangladesh.

The Security Council statement did not specify the exact number of
peacekeepers to be relocated, but diplomats said that it would be between 180 and 200.

They also made it clear that the number would cover not just Westerners as demanded by the Eritrean government but others as well.

The UNMEE has 3,794 peacekeepers and support staff on both sides of the 1,000-kilometer border, many of whom are based in Eritrea and patrol a 25-kilometer buffer zone inside Eritrean territory.