Ethiopia: All Quiet



February 9, 2006; During the past week, UNMEE conducted 746 ground patrols along the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ--the border area). Meanwhile, Eritrea reported that four Ethiopian soldiers had crossed the border and defected. There is obviously increased activity in the border area. However, with the US diplomatic initiative in play, it is unlikely that a full-scale war will erupt. The situation, however, is volatile. The UN observers are supposed to provide a degree of "transparency" so neither side gets jumpy. With observers withdrawn or denied access to area, the possibility of small firefights erupting increases. The US is regarded as one of the few nations both Eritrea and Ethiopia will listen to. However, neither side shows any willingness to discuss the border issues.

February 8, 2006; The UN Security Council gave the United States another thirty days to see if a new diplomatic initiative can help resolve the Ethiopia-Eritrea border issue. The mandate for the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) ends in March. The UN Security Council is considering several options, including a redeployment of the 3300 peacekeepers in the force. Since October 2005, Eritrea has restricted UN peacekeeping and observer helicopter flights in the border zone. UN observers say their ability to monitor the border situation has been greatly reduced. African and western press sources report that both Ethiopia and Eritrea have increased their military capabilities in the border zone.

The UN accused Eritrea of helping Libya and Chad supply arms to rebel groups in Sudan's western Darfur region. Eritrea denied the charge.

January 23, 2006: Eritrea told a visiting UN representative that new negotiations were unnecessary because (quoting the Eritrean spokesman) "the Eritrea-Ethiopia issue involves no debatable matter..." Neither Ethopia nor Eritrea believe there is anything to talk about. The boundary commission decided in Eritrea's favor regarding the key area around the town of Badme. Ethiopia now refuses to recognize the "binding" decision. Diplomacy has hit a wall-- an armed wall.

January 11, 2006: Since the beginning of the year, Ethiopia has moved most of its recent reinforcements away from the Eritrean border. There have been far fewer incidents along the border (usually patrols firing at each other.)


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