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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05ADDISABABA4046
2005-12-08 06:08:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

UNMEE OFFICIALS AWAITING GUIDANCE ON ERITREA'S

Tags:   PREL  KPKO  MOPS  ET  ER  EE  BORDER  UNSC 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 004046 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2015
TAGS: PREL KPKO MOPS ET ER EE BORDER UNSC
SUBJECT: UNMEE OFFICIALS AWAITING GUIDANCE ON ERITREA'S
REQUEST TO EXPEL PEACEKEEPERS

REF: A. ADDIS ABABA 4044


B. ASMARA 1171 (NOTAL)

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 004046

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2015
TAGS: PREL KPKO MOPS ET ER EE BORDER UNSC
SUBJECT: UNMEE OFFICIALS AWAITING GUIDANCE ON ERITREA'S
REQUEST TO EXPEL PEACEKEEPERS

REF: A. ADDIS ABABA 4044


B. ASMARA 1171 (NOTAL)

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


1. (C) SUMMARY. Eritrea's demand that American, Canadian,
and European (including Russian) UNMEE staff depart within 10
days could affect Ethiopia's previous commitment to withdraw
troops from the border, senior UNMEE officials say. UNMEE is
awaiting guidance from New York on whether to comply with or
to reject the GSE's request, the latest in a series of
restrictions imposed since October. Were UNMEE to comply, it
would not only directly affect nearly half of UNMEE's
military observers, but also hamper missionwide
transportation and logistics. In the absence of a formal
status of mission agreement, UN legal officials are reviewing
the June 2000 cessation of hostilities agreement to determine
whether Eritrea can require host-country approval of staff
serving in a Chapter VI peacekeeping mission. India's
ambassador to Ethiopia has discussed the possibility of
replacing staff with those of unaffected nationalities,
rather than withdrawal from UNMEE. END SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) On the afternoon of December 7, following an earlier
briefing for NATO ambassadors (ref A), Addis Ababa-based
officials of the UN Mission for Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE)
briefed Western European missions, Bulgaria, Canada, the
U.S., and UNSC members Tanzania and Algeria on the Government
of the State of Eritrea's (GSE) December 6 decision to expel
Western nationals serving in UNMEE. Deputy Special
Representative of the UN Secretary-General (DSRSG) Amb. Azouz
Ennifar said that GSE Acting Commissioner for Coordination
with the UN Peacekeeping Mission Col. Zecarias Ogbagaber had
informed UNMEE on the evening of December 6 that "all members
of UNMEE" holding U.S., Canadian, European, or Russian
nationality should leave UNMEE within 10 days, "irrespective
of the sector of their activity." Eritrea had provided no
further explanation, Ennifar said. Amb. Ennifar said the

request had been forwarded to UN headquarters in New York,
and characterized it as a continuation of a decision taken by
the GSE two months earlier to impose incrementally tighter
restrictions on UNMEE and its freedom of movement. UNMEE
Spokeswoman Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte said UNHQ would likely
prepare a statement for release by the UNSYG.

-------------- --------------
ETHIOPIA MAY RECONSIDER REDEPLOYING TROOPS AWAY FROM BORDER
-------------- --------------


3. (SBU) Amb. Ennifar said that upon informing Ethiopia's
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Tekeda Alema this
morning of Eritrea's request, Tekeda responded that Ethiopia
would not be provoked, and that Ethiopia's decision last week
(following UNSCR 1640) to withdraw its troops along the
border to positions held in December 2004 would be "examined
in the context of these new conditions." Ennifar commented
that he believed that Ethiopia would implement a partial
withdrawal -- withdrawing only in areas where Ethiopia
assessed that Eritrea did not pose a risk.


4. (SBU) Amb. Ennifar noted that at the November 25 meeting
in Nairobi of the Military Coordination Commission, the only
active mechanism for discussions between Ethiopia and
Eritrea, Eritrea had rejected UNSCR 1640 for failing to
resolve underlying issues. He said that while Ethiopia had
committed to withdraw troops to positions held in December
2004, Eritrea had asserted that the directive to withdraw
troops did not apply to Eritrea, as Eritrea claimed it had
not moved any troops into the TSZ.

-------------- --------------
WOULD CURTAIL FIXED-WING OPERATIONS AND HALF OF UNMEE'S MILOBS
-------------- --------------


5. (SBU) DSRSG Ennifar said that the GSE's request would
directly apply to approximately 150 UNMEE personnel in
Eritrea: 90 out of 220 military observers, as well as
approximately 50-60 civilian staff in Asmara. However,
indirect consequences would include hampering mission
communications and logistics, he said, noting that UNMEE's
chief of administration was Russian. Ennifar also expressed
concern that if the UN considered the GSE's request to apply
to UNMEE contractors as well as personnel, then it would
hamper demining operations and possibly curtail UNMEE's fixed
wing air operations (as Ukrainian air crews operate two
Antonov aircraft based in Asmara).


6. (SBU) In response to questions from Western diplomats,
Ennifar said it was "too early" to discuss whether the GSE's
request would require UNMEE to additional posts (18 out of 40
have been closed since the GSE's October flight ban) in the
Temporary Security Zone (TSZ). Whether UNMEE would comply
and seek to substitute staff of either nationalities, or
protest the decision, would depend on the UNSC's decision, he
said. "It is completely in the hands of the Security
Council," Ennifar said. He said the new restrictions were
intended to put further pressure on the international
community to address border demarcation, and that he believed
that the GSE did not want UNMEE to leave. If Eritrea wanted
UNMEE to leave, it would simply direct UNMEE to do so, he
said. Asked to identify UNMEE's red-lines, Ennifar said
UNMEE would have to reconsider its presence only when
personnel's safety was at risk, or when it was reduced to so
few personnel that it would be impossible to fulfill its
mandate.


7. (SBU) Further restrictions by the GSE were likely,
according to UNMEE Head of Political Affairs and Principal
Political Advisor Amb. Leandre Bassole, based in Asmara but
visiting Addis Ababa. Amb. Bassole said that when the GSE
announced its ban on UNMEE helicopter flights, GSE officials
had explicitly linked the move with a desire to prod the UNSC
to act on border demarcation, and had said that additional
restrictions could be imposed in the future. DSRSG Ennifar
noted that beginning with the flight ban imposed two weeks
after the GSE's minister of finance's belligerent address to
the UNGA on September 23, the GSE had placed an increasing
number of restrictions on UNMEE: affecting not only its
freedom of movement (restricting time and locations), but
also measures that harassed UNMEE staff (e.g., forbidding
UNMEE's PX to import shipping containers, and requiring
departing UNMEE staff to provide receipts for all personal
effects).

--------------
LEGAL BASIS OF ERITREA'S REQUEST UNCLEAR
--------------


8. (SBU) UN legal experts were reviewing the June 2000
cessation of hostilities agreement (S/2000/601) and the
December 2000 Algiers accord, although neither agreement
provides much detail, to determine whether there was a legal
basis for Eritrea's request, Ennifar said. He observed that
the June 2000 agreement may refer to consent of host
countries, but that while the SRSG had to be approved by both
countries, whether the composition of peacekeeping mission
staff was subject to formal host-country approval remained an
open question, he said. Ennifar noted that UNMEE had
operated until now without any formal status of mission
agreement with the GSE, and had previously subjected
composition of personnel to host-country approval.


9. (SBU) Amb. Bassole commented that Eritrea's request was
"directed against Western countries." He noted that it came
five years after the establishment of UNMEE, and therefore
was without precedent. Canada's ambassador said Canada was
at a loss to explain its inclusion in Eritrea's expulsion
order, as it was minimally involved in the border situation,
but believed that Eritrea was likely protesting former
Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy's tenure as UN
Special Envoy for Ethiopia and Eritrea.


10. (SBU) UN peacekeeping missions operating under Chapter VI
of the UN Charter typically require host country approval,
Ennifar said. However, were the UNSC to decide to change
UNMEE's mandate to Chapter VII (i.e., peace enforcement),
then "they (Eritrea) cannot reject it," he said.

-------------- --------------
NO TALK OF WITHDRAWING FROM TROOP CONTRIBUTING COUNTRIES
-------------- --------------


11. (SBU) Troop contributing countries (principally Jordan
and India) have given no official reaction to the GSE's
request, Ennifar said, but share concerns about the safety of
their personnel. Amb. Bassole reported that India's
ambassador to Ethiopia had met with UNMEE officials and had
proposed that UNMEE examine: (1) the possible replacement of
those asked to leave with staff from other nationalities, and
(2) redeploying affected staff from Eritrea to Ethiopia.


12. (C) Amb. Ennifar informed poloff that UNMEE has
contingency plans, established earlier, for evacuation from
Eritrea, but none for reinforcing its mission or for
substituting staff. He also observed that Eritrea's action
was directed against all P-5 members except China (which has
both MILOBs and civilian staff assigned to UNMEE), and
asserted that China had recently provided arms to Eritrea.
DSRSG Ennifar also noted that as of December 6 (prior to the
GSE's announcement), UNMEE observers had not yet confirmed
any Ethiopian withdrawal from border areas. Troop movements
north from Mekele (in Tigray) to the border had ceased, but
no Ethiopian troops had been seen withdrawing south, he said.


13. (C) COMMENT: Allied missions are concerned that even if
Eritrea's move is legally justified, it establishes a bad
precedent. Senior UNMEE officials are awaiting guidance on
whether to comply with the GSE's request (but circumvent its
effects by substituting personnel from other UN missions), or
to reject it. The UN has some ability to transfer assets
among peacekeeping missions: Ennifar noted that following
the GSE's October ban on air operations, UNMEE transferred
helicopters to MONUC in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
END COMMENT.
HUDDLESTON