EthiopiaEritrea Annan reports progress but says serious difficulties remain

“The establishment of the Temporary Security Zone is an encouraging development, which, despite the disagreements between the parties, marks a milestone in the implementation of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities,” Mr. Annan writes in a report released today at UN Headquarters. “However, it is imperative that the parties resolve the outstanding issues, in particular those pertaining to the Temporary Security Zone, so as to ensure that it is clearly defined and effectively demilitarized.” The Secretary-General says he made that point in separate letters dated 1 June to Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Specifically, he called President Isaias’ attention to the deployment by Eritrea of “an excessive number of militia and police” in the Zone, and noted that the status-of-forces agreement for UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) had not been signed. At the same time, Mr. Annan expressed concern to Prime Minister Meles over “the continued presence of Ethiopian troops in parts of the eastern sector” of the Zone. The Secretary-General also mentioned “the continuing restrictions imposed on UNMEE’s freedom of movement.” Stressing the importance of the work of the Boundary Commission, mandated to delimit and demarcate the border between the two countries and resolve the dispute that originated the war, Mr. Annan calls on both Governments to cooperate with the Commission and meet their obligation to bear the related costs.Mr. Annan cites among major concerns the humanitarian situation and the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance — two problems calling for a response from donor countries.The Secretary-General also voices regret that “despite some softening of the hostile rhetoric in the media, neither Government has yet displayed publicly much openness to a normalization of relations.” Political developments in both countries, he says, “should not distract them from their commitments to a peaceful settlement of their differences.”

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