United Nations peacekeepers prepared to leave the border between
Ethiopia and Eritrea, with the mission's mandate set to expire at
midnight. As Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in
Nairobi, the governments of both Eritrea and Ethiopia played down the
threat of renewed conflict in the wake of the mission's departure, and
blamed one another for the continued failure to resolve the border
On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council voted
unanimously to end the peacekeeping mission, known as UNMEE, which has
monitored a buffer zone along the disputed border between Ethiopia and
Eritrea for the past eight years.
On Thursday, Bereket Simon, an
advisor to Ethiopia's prime minister, said Ethiopia would continue to
search for a solution to the dispute, but put the blame for the
mission's departure squarely on the government of Eritrea.
mission was not able to function because of the obstacles created by
the Eritrean government. The Eritrean government has trespassed the
agreement and entered into the Temporary Security Zone. It has created
all sorts of obstacles. Freedom of movement was curtailed by the
Eritrean government so UNMEE was not in a position to do the rounds to
observe the situation, so it was impossible for them to continue," he
Earlier this year, the Eritrean government cut off fuel
supplies for U.N. peacekeepers, causing the bulk of the mission's
presence in the Eritrean side to leave the country. The U.N. had explored
the possibility of a scaled-down force to replace UNMEE, but a
statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that option had been
rejected by both sides.
Eritrean presidential spokesman Yemane
Gebremeskel on Tuesday reiterated his government's position that there
has already been a legal ruling on the border and that the UN mission,
having failed to enforce the decision, serves no purpose.
peacekeepers are there or not, it has no impact. Nothing has changed.
At the end of the day, UNMEE's presence was simply nominal to create
the conditions for the implementation of the agreement. But that has
not taken place for the last eight years simply because the Security
Council has failed to act on the decision of the commission. And
that's because the Americans have been blocking implementation of the
decision," he said.
Following the 2000 Algiers Agreement that
ended the two-year border war between the two countries, a boundary
commission gave much of the disputed territory, including the town of
Badme, to Eritrea. But Eritrea's increasingly antagonistic posture has
lost the country much of its international sympathy.
governments have minimized the possibility that the U.N.'s departure
will invite a return to conflict. But many observers are less
optimistic, warning that that the removal of peacekeepers removes one
of the few remaining buffers between the thousands of troops amassed by
each side along the border.