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Sudan Tribune

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Security Council draft demands Eritrea lift peacekeeper restrictions

Nov 22, 2005 (UNITED NATIONS) — Greece circulated a draft Security Council resolution on Tuesday that demands Eritrea lift restrictions on U.N. peacekeepers along the border with Ethiopia and calls on both sides to reverse a worrisome troop buildup.

The resolution would threaten sanctions against the two sides if they do not comply. It again urges Ethiopia accept a 2000 border agreement, but carries no penalty if the country continues to ignore that appeal.

Expected to be adopted Wednesday, the resolution follows a trip to the region by Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima on behalf of the council. In a report to fellow council members, Oshima had sought the resolution and noted that the “current stalemate is pregnant with risk.”

But he offered no initiatives on how to find a solution except to urge both sides to meet their obligations. Instead, he suggested instead that countries with influence on the two nations launch a “new series of vigorous diplomatic initiatives to break the stalemate.”

The council’s inability to resolve the crisis appeared to irk U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who said the U.N.’s credibility in peacekeeping.

“The Security Council has to do more work to make sure, when it gets involved in an issue like this, that it can carry it through to a successful conclusion,” Bolton said.

On Oct. 5, the Eritrean government banned helicopter flights by U.N. peacekeepers in its airspace in a buffer zone with Ethiopia. It then banned U.N. vehicles from patrolling at night on its side of the zone, prompting the U.N. to vacate 18 of its 40 posts.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war, but the border between the two was never formally demarcated. The border war erupted in 1998 and has claimed tens of thousands of lives while costing both countries an estimated $1 million per day.

A December 2000 peace agreement provided for an independent commission to rule on the position of the disputed 621-mile border while some 3,200 U.N. troops patrolled a 15-mile buffer zone between the two countries. But Ethiopia refused to accept the panel’s April 2002 decision, which awarded the town of Badme to Eritrea.