Eritrea moves troops into UN buffer zone

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

On Monday, the United Nations accused Eritrea of moving some 1,500 soldiers and 14 tanks into a U.N. buffer zone, instituted six-years ago over a border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eritrea claimed it has the right to move troops into its sovereign area. An Eritrean presidential advisor said the troops were working on development projects in the Temporary Security Zone. Ethiopia sees the action as a provocation.

A U.N. chief spokesman said that Secretary-General Kofi Annan "urges the government of Eritrea to withdraw its troops from the zone immediately, and to cooperate with the United Nations in restoring the cease-fire arrangements." The U.N. had reduced its troops and military observers from 3,300 to 2,300 in May, and threatened late September to further reduce this number if the two countries do not move forward in their border conflict.

In 1962 the Emperor Haile Sellassie of Ethiopia annexed Eritrea, which lead to the Eritrean War of Independence, until Eritrea regained control in 1991. The current border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia started in 1998, and ended in 2000 with a peace deal that stated the countries were bound to the decision of an independent commission ruling on the border issue. Ethiopia rejected the decision and insisted on further talks. Eritrea responded by hindering the peacekeepers' movements.

Last Sunday the Sudanese government signed a peace treaty with the united rebel groups at the Sudanese Eastern Front, at the border with Eritrea. The Eritrean government changed their position from previously being the main supporter of the rebels, to striving for a cease-fire.