November 17, 2005

UN council works to avert Eritrea-Ethiopia war

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council likely
will adopt a resolution next week pressing former foes Ethiopia
and Eritrea to avert a renewed war and return to a 2000 peace
accord, diplomats said on Thursday.

A draft resolution put forward by Greece would ask Eritrea
to end its restrictions on U.N. helicopter flights and other
peacekeeping chores and urge Ethiopia to finally accept the
binding ruling of an international commission on the border
shared by the Horn of Africa neighbors, the diplomats said.

The draft would also ask both sides to pull back their
military forces to positions they held in December, they said.

The measure is expected to be put to a vote in the
15-nation council before next Thursday's U.S. Thanksgiving
holiday, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said.

"This is a dangerous situation," U.N. peacekeeping chief
Jean-Marie Guehenno told reporters after briefing the council
behind closed doors on the latest developments.

"We don't believe that a war is imminent, but we believe
that the kind of posture that the respective armed forces are
taking creates a very unstable and very dangerous situation."

U.N. peacekeepers monitor a buffer zone between the two
countries as part of the five-year-old peace deal ending their
two-year border war that killed more than 70,000 people.

But both sides have moved forces and weapons toward the
border after Eritrea banned U.N. helicopter flights over its
territory on October 5 and imposed other restrictions on ground
movements, hampering peacekeepers' ability to monitor troop
movements, deliver supplies to their bases and carry out
medical evacuations and other important operations.

Eritrea acted out of frustration over Ethiopia's refusal to
implement the boundary commission ruling, and the international
community's failure to put pressure on Ethiopia to do so.

Under the peace deal, both sides agreed to accept the
commission's judgment on the location of the frontier as final
and binding.

But when the commission awarded the key border town of
Badme to Eritrea, Ethiopia balked and the peace process has
been at a stalemate ever since.