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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05ADDISABABA3930
2005-11-22 14:49:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

ETHIOPIAN MILITARY OCCUPIES FORMER UNMEE OUTPOST

Tags:   PREL  MOPS  KPKO  ER  ET  EE  BORDER 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 003930 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF DAS YAMAMOTO, AF/E, AND AF/PD
ROME, PARIS, LONDON FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/22/2015
TAGS: PREL MOPS KPKO ER ET EE BORDER
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIAN MILITARY OCCUPIES FORMER UNMEE OUTPOST
IN TEMPORARY SECURITY ZONE

REF: A. ADDIS ABABA 3911

B. ADDIS ABABA 3769

C. ADDIS ABABA 3747

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES VICKI HUDDLESTON. REASON: 1.4 (B), (D
).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 003930

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF DAS YAMAMOTO, AF/E, AND AF/PD
ROME, PARIS, LONDON FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/22/2015
TAGS: PREL MOPS KPKO ER ET EE BORDER
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIAN MILITARY OCCUPIES FORMER UNMEE OUTPOST
IN TEMPORARY SECURITY ZONE

REF: A. ADDIS ABABA 3911

B. ADDIS ABABA 3769

C. ADDIS ABABA 3747

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES VICKI HUDDLESTON. REASON: 1.4 (B), (D
).


1. (C) SUMMARY. United Nations officials will publicly
announce today that Ethiopia has violated the 2000 cessation
of hostilities agreement, by occupying a strategic former
UNMEE observation post within the Temporary Security Zone
that provides access to Assab. UNMEE military observers
abandoned the post in October, when Eritrean restrictions on
UNMEE's freedom of movement rendered manning such posts
untenable. Eritrea is aware of the Ethiopian move. UNMEE
has formally protested Ethiopia's action, but has received no
response from the Ethiopian government. The presence of
Ethiopian troops in Eritrean territory is likely to
complicate efforts to address the current stalemate.
However, according to UNMEE's Chief Military Liaison Officer,
it is highly likely that Eritrea has occupied a number of
posts evacuated by UNMEE, although he cannot verify this, due
to the GSE's limitations on UNMEE activities. END SUMMARY.


2. (C) Charge, DATT, and deputy P/E chief met on November 22
with UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) Deputy
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (DSRSG)
Amb. Azouz Ennifar and Chief Military Liaison Officer Colonel
Jarmo Helenius (strictly protect). According to the UNMEE
officials, UNMEE military observers noted on November 18 that
an Ethiopian infantry platoon was occupying "Point 885", one
of 18 sites in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) vacated by
UNMEE following Eritrea's October 4 ban on UNMEE flight
operations (ref C). Previously, Indian troops from UNMEE had
manned Point 885, located east of Bure, at approximately 42
degrees east, in the TSZ's eastern sector. While the
Temporary Security Zone lies entirely within Eritrea, Ennifar
said both Ethiopia and Eritrea had previously appeared to
agree that Point 885 was Ethiopian territory. He added that

Ethiopian troops had said they would continue to occupy the
former UNMEE post until UNMEE returns. Col. Helenius said
that Ethiopian claims that they took control of this
strategic site to prevent an attack are credible. Col.
Helenius also said that Eritrea had likely occupied posts
evacuated by UNMEE as well, but that UNMEE could not verify
this.


3. (C) Asmara-based UNMEE DSRSG Joel Adechi has informed the
Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) of the Ethiopian
entry into the TSZ, Ennifar said, but the GSE responded that
it had known of the Ethiopian move for four days, and was
disappointed that UNMEE had not reported the event earlier.
GSE officials also said that perhaps they would not attend
the next meeting of the Military Coordination Commission,
scheduled for November 24 in Nairobi. (NOTE: According to
Major General Yohannes Gebremeskel, Head of the Intelligence
Main Department, the Eritreans would likely attend the
meeting. MG Yohannes will lead the Ethiopian delegation.
END NOTE.) According to Ennifar, the Government of Ethiopia
has made no formal acknowledgement of its entry into the TSZ,
nor has the GOE responded to formal protests from UNMEE to
both Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Tekeda Alemu
(on November 19) and to Ethiopia's Ministry of Defense (on
November 21). Ennifar noted that SRSG Legwaila Joseph
Legwaila was on medical leave for one month, to undergo
surgery in New York.


4. (C) Amb. Ennifar and Col. Helenius pointed out that there
is a heavy presence of Eritrean troops in the TSZ, some of
whom, when confronted by UNMEE, admit that they are military,
although they wear militia uniforms.

-------------- --------------
U.N. TO DENOUNCE VIOLATION OF CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENT
-------------- --------------


5. (C) Characterizing the Ethiopian entry into the TSZ as a
"serious violation" of the June 2000 cease-fire agreement,
Amb. Ennifar said that UN officials would publicly announce
the Ethiopian move at the UN Spokesman's noon press briefing
today, in New York.


6. (C) UNMEE had intentionally established an observation
post at Point 885 due to the site's strategic value, Col.
Helenius said, explaining that it commanded a ridge that
looked over the surrounding area. Prior to vacating the
post, UNMEE had dismantled and removed any infrastructure, he
said. Col. Helenius noted that the Ethiopian platoon had
communications equipment but no heavy weapons; Ethiopia's
claim that its primary purpose was deterrence against an
Eritrean attack was "credible," he said. Col. Helenius
underscored that no violent actions against UNMEE personnel
had occurred, and that there was "no direct threat." Both
sides had publicly disavowed a first strike, but were taking
actions to "humiliate" the United Nations and therefore push
the international community to address the stalemate,
Helenius commented.


7. (C) DSRSG Ennifar was concerned with Charge's observation
that it seemed that the "reality on the ground" did not match
recent public statements disavowing hostile intent made by
Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki, and Ethiopian Prime
Minister Meles Zenawi's view of a diminished threat from
Eritrea given Ethiopia's strong hand. Ennifar expressed
concern that while Eritrea did not acknowledge that it has
troops within the Temporary Security Zone, the number of
Eritrean "militia" within the TSZ was increasing, many of
whom were likely regular Eritrean troops. Col. Helenius
acknowledged that the number of Eritrean troops was unknown
in areas where the GSE was denying UNMEE access, and that
Eritrean troops were likely occupying former UNMEE posts as
well.


8. (C) Large concentrations of Ethiopian troops are located
near the border in the Badme-Sitona Triangle area (near the
western sector of the TSZ) and along the Addis Ababa-Asmara
axis (near the central sector of the TSZ), Col. Helenius
said. DATT noted that during his recent visit to Adigrat
(septel), near the TSZ's central sector, no large troop
formations were visible on the Ethiopian side of the border,
but that Ethiopian military commanders declared that the bulk
of Ethiopian troops were situated just 20-30 kilometers south
of the TSZ. Col. Helenius observed that Ethiopia's largest
mechanized division was located near the central sector.


9. (SBU) Troop-contributing countries, particularly India,
warned at their most recent meeting in New York, that they
may withdraw peace-keepers from UNMEE, Amb. Ennifar said.
Ennifar confirmed recent press reports that UN security
officials had raised the threat level facing UNMEE staff in
Eritrea, but said the withdrawal of UNMEE dependents had
begun earlier as UNMEE was supposed to be an unaccompanied
mission.


10. (C) COMMENT: Ethiopia's decision to take over an
observation post vacated by UNMEE is consistent with its
desire to prevent an attack from Eritrea. However, it is a
proven violation, and, as such, raises serious issues. Prime
Minister Meles told me that Ethiopia would not/not occupy the
TSZ as Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin had stated to Japanese

SIPDIS
PermRep to the UN Amb. Oshima (ref B). Meles said that
Eritrea and Ethiopia -- as long as neither wish to go to war
-- could together work out security arrangements in the TSZ.
Of course, this makes the possibility of mistakes or
miscalculations more likely. END COMMENT.
HUDDLESTON