Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE)
Date: 18 Mar 2004
UNMEE media briefing notes 18 Mar
UNMEE PUBLIC INFORMATION
A near verbatim transcript of the weekly press briefing chaired in the
Eritrean capital Asmara by the Spokeswoman and Chief of Public Information
Office, Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte', via videoconference linking
participants in Addis Ababa and Asmara. Also present in Asmara was the
Force Commander Major General Robert Gordon.
MEDIA BRIEFING NOTES - 18 MARCH 2004
Last week, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG)
Legwaila Joseph Legwaila was in New York where he conducted meetings and
consultations on the renewal of UNMEE's mandate, which was extended by the
Security Council on 12 March in a unanimously adopted resolution (1531).
On 12 March in Asmara, the Officer- In- Charge (OIC) and Deputy Special
Representative of the Secretary General (OIC DSRSG) Angela Kane met with
the Special Adviser for the Sudan Peace Process, Ambassador Mohammed
Sahnoun and his delegation, who briefed the DSRSG on his consultations in
the region and the status of the Sudan peace process.
On the same day in Addis Ababa, Ms. Rosemary McCreery, UN Assistant
Secretary-General for the Office of Human Resources Management, paid a
courtesy call on DSRSG-Addis Ababa, Cheikh Tidiane Gaye. DSRSG Gaye
briefed ASG McCreery on the current situation in the peace process.
After his return to Asmara, on 15 March the SRSG received the Assistant
Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, Ms. Rosemary McCreery,
who was making a courtesy call on him. After his meeting with the ASG, the
SRSG, accompanied by the Deputy Force Commander, travelled to Assab where
they attended the handover ceremony between the Kenyan Battalion (KENBATT
11) and KENBATT 13 in Assab. In the afternoon, the SRSG opened the
Political Affairs Office (PAO) meeting of field 'presences' at the Sector
East Headquarters in Assab.
After his trip to Assab, the SRSG returned to Asmara where he held a
town hall meeting for UNMEE staff members on 16 March.
On 15 and 16 March, DSRSG Gaye attended the 4th Ordinary Session of the
African Union Executive Council held in Addis Ababa.
During the past week, UNMEE conducted 695 ground and 10 air
reconnaissance patrols throughout the Area of Responsibility. The general
situation in the Mission area continues to remain tense, yet is assessed
as remaining militarily stable. There have been no significant changes in
troop locations or dispositions reported over the past week.
In all sectors, UNMEE peacekeepers continued to provide medical
assistance to local civilians, including Internally Displaced Persons
(IDPs), along with supplies of bulk water to civilian communities in the
Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and the Adjacent Areas.
The 23rd meeting of the Military Coordination Commission (MCC) took
place in Nairobi on 15 March 2004. The meeting was conducted in a positive
and business-like manner. Participants reviewed the progress of the Sector
MCCs and acknowledged the setting up of the Sector MCC process as an
important step. The current military situation and recent incidents in the
border areas were also reviewed in detail and discussed. Details of the
meeting are contained in a separate press release.
Restrictions of Freedom of Movement
The road Asmara - Keren - Barentu continues to remain closed to all
UNMEE movement; these restrictions were imposed on 5 March 2004.
The Slovak Engineering Company---de-mining both mechanically and
manually---cleared a total area of 12,310 square metres in the Adi
Hakin-Mai Hbey minefield and in the vicinity of the village Sheshebit (8
southeast of Shilalo) in Sector West. Two pieces of MYB-2 igniters, one
piece of a rocket stabilizer and one POMZ-2 mine were cleared. In Sector
Centre, a detachment from the Company manually cleared a total area of
3,530 square meters along access roads to the border area near Ksad Eiqa,
about 15 kilometres south of Adi Quala.
The Kenyan Demining Engineering Company, working in the Adi Hakin-Mai
Hbey minefield, manually cleared a total area of 4,370 square metres and
disposed of two detonators, four fuses and fifteen POMZ-2 mines.
MECHEM de-miners cleared stretches of 40.9 kilometres near Kerkesha and
12.9 kilometres near Shambiko. No UXOs were found.
Don Lieber, a researcher for the Landmine Monitor Report 2004 of the
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is visiting the Mission
area. He will hold meetings with various key representatives of the Mine
Action community in Eritrea, including the UNMEE Mine Action Coordination
Centre, UNDP's Mine Action Capacity Building Programme (MACBP) and the
Eritrean Demining Authority (EDA). Mr Lieber is responsible for the
compilation of the section on Mine Action in Eritrea, for the Landmine
Monitor Report 2004.
Meetings And Visits
Over 10 and 11 March, the Deputy Force Commander and Chief Military
Observer (DFC and CMO) Brigadier General Walid Krieshan visited Sector
East and was briefed on the operational activities by the Kenyan Battalion
Operations Officer and the Senior Sector Military Observer. He also
visited Team Sites Bure and Assab and accompanied their patrols in their
respective Areas of Responsibility.
On 12 March, the Force Commander Major General Robert Gordon visited
Sector East to bid farewell to the Kenyan Battalion (KENBATT 11). He
addressed the peacekeepers of KENBATT 11 at the Assab Camp, and at Points
60 and 44.
On 15 March, the Special Representative of the Secretary General
Legwaila Joseph Legwaila and the Deputy Force Commander and CMO Brigadier
General Walid Krieshan attended the handover ceremony between KENBATT 11
and KENBATT 13 at Assab.
Rotation of the Kenyan Battalion commenced during the week with KENBATT
11 being replaced, after their one-year tour of duty, by KENBATT 13. A
total of 431 peacekeepers have rotated so far and the rotation will be
completed later today.
Repatriation of Ethiopian Minor
On 13 March, the Indian Battalion Company Commander at Zela Ambessa
organised the repatriation of a nine-year old girl who had accidentally
crossed the Southern boundary of the TSZ from Maichea into Eritrea.
Questions and Answers
Q [from Addis Ababa]: Could you tell us if Eritrea has given you
any information (as to) when the restriction would be withdrawn or (have)
you have talked to them?
Force Commander: The Eritrean delegation at the MCC reiterated
the earlier statement, which has already been reported to the media. They
are conducting their own investigation-- and I am not sure what this
means--their own investigation into our movements along our main supply
route and when that investigation is complete we will be informed as to
whether the road would be opened once more to us or would remain close
Q [from Asmara]: I would be interested to know what UNMEE's
response was to the Eritrean report, which says that they (UNMEE) were
concealing the truth, which came out following the MCC?
Force Commander: Yes, I read that piece. I think that was based
on Commissioner Abrahaley's dissatisfaction with the Secretary-General's
report. I should say that this was not the line that we had received from
other government sources in Eritrea who felt that it was an improvement
and more balanced and certainly more focused than the last
Secretary-General's report. Apart from that, I have very little comment to
make on that piece.
Q [from Asmara]: What sort of time frame are we looking at for
the Eritrean investigation into the road closure, because I suppose your
only hope for it getting re-opened is when that investigation is
completed, so do we have any idea when their investigation might be
Force Commander: No, we have been given no indication of how
long this process will take. It's not just us who is interested, of course
it's the international community generally and particularly the troop
contributing nations, who have taken a dim view of these restrictions on
Q [from Asmara]: So is that to say that since you made
representations to the Eritreans you have now taking it up with members of
the diplomatic community?
Force Commander: No. It's merely to say that inevitably this is
an issue coming as it did, just before the meeting of the Security
Council, Friends of UNMEE, troop contributing nations of UNMEE, in other
words UNMEE week at the UN last week; it was something that they all
Q [from Asmara]: Do you have any news on any possible visit by
Spokeswoman: No unfortunately we have no news of visits by
envoys. Not to Asmara anyway.
What I did want to say is that the SRSG will probably be with us [at
the Press Briefing] next week. I thought I would let you know that in
For further enquires please contact: Gail Bindley-Taylor-Sainte,
Spokeswoman and Chief, Public Information Office Or UNMEE Headquarters
Asmara, telephone: 291-1-150411- extension 6017 or our tie-line in New
York: 00-1-212-963-3779-Ext 6017or George Somerwill, Deputy Chief, Public
Information Office UNMEE Headquarters Addis Ababa, telephone: 251-1-726895
extension 7104; Mobile: 251 9 223031. UNMEE Website: http://www.unmeeonline.org/
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