grants audience with Axworthy, offers to send Envoy
17 June (UNMEE) – UNMEE spokeswoman Gail Bindley-Taylor confirmed that
following a flurry of diplomatic correspondence between Eritrea and the UNSG
regarding the scope and purpose of Annan’s special envoy Lloyd Axworthy,
Eritrea has now granted audience with Axworhty and offered to send own envoy to
the meeting, which Axworthy is reportedly expected to attend. The spokeswoman
remained reluctant to qualify Eritrea’s move either way, though.
UNMEE media briefing notes 17 Jun 2004
Source: UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea
Date: 17 Jun 2004
A near verbatim transcript of the press briefing held by the Spokeswoman and
Chief of Public Information Gail Bindley Taylor in Asmara, via videoconference
linking participants in Asmara and Addis Ababa.
A Review Mission Team from the United Nations Headquarters is visiting the
Mission area. Their visit is an internal exercise, and is part of routine
assessments of peacekeeping missions. In Addis Ababa on 14 June the Team met
with the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG-Addis
Ababa) Cheikh Tidiane Gaye, with whom they discussed the Review Mission's role
and exchanged views on the current situation in the peace process. The Team met
separately with Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tekeda Alemu,
the Ethiopian Commissioner for the Commission for Cooperation with the
Peacekeeping Mission, Brigadier-General Yohannes Gebremeskel, and
representatives of the P5, the African Union, the "Friends of UNMEE"
and Troop Contributing Countries as well as the UN Country Team.
On 15 June the Review Mission Team arrived in Asmara where the Special
Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) Legwaila Joseph Legwaila
received them. On 15 and 16 June the group met with UNMEE's senior managers.
Also on 16 June the Team met separately with the Eritrean Commissioner for the
Commission for Coordination with the Peacekeeping Mission, Brigadier-General
Abrahaley Kifle, the P5, the "Friends of UNMEE" and the Witnesses, as
well as the United Nations Country Team.
The general situation in the Mission area remains militarily stable. There
have been no significant changes in troop locations or dispositions reported
during the past week. UNMEE conducted 754 ground and 9 air reconnaissance
patrols throughout the Area of Responsibility (AOR).
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.
Restrictions of Freedom of Movement
The Asmara - Keren - Barentu road continues to remain closed to all UNMEE
vehicular movement, a restriction that continues to hamper UNMEE's mandated
The Bangladesh Engineering Company de-mined 11,200 square meters along the
road Adi Ibrahim to the Awgaro Bridge and an area of 12,600 square meters in
the Shambiko area. Three artillery projectiles were cleared. On 14 June, the
Explosive Ordnance Team of the same Company disposed off six artillery
projectiles near Mukuti.
The Kenyan De-mining Engineering Company manually cleared an area of 12,342
square metres in the Adi Hakin-Mai Hbey minefield. 21 POMZ-2M mines, one mortar
shell, one grenade, four fuses and one detonator were destroyed.
Meetings And Visits
On 14 June, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Legwaila
Joseph Legwaila, accompanied by the Force Commander Major General Robert Gordon
and the Deputy Force Commander and Chief Military Observer Brigadier General
Walid Kreishan attended the medal parade of the Jordanian Battalion (JORBAT) in
Barentu. The same day, the Senior Management team also attended the handover
ceremony of the Finnish Contingent in Asmara.
On 11 and 12 June 2004, the Human Rights Office (HRO) participated in a
seminar on "Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law"
organized for the Ethiopian Parliament. It was conducted jointly by the
Ethiopian Government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Embassy of Spain. The objective
of the seminar was to discuss the role of parliaments in the protection and
promotion of human rights.
The Human Rights Office was informed that eighty per cent of the total
population of the Wa'al Nhibi camp for Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers
have been moved to the new camp location at Shimelba, further from the TSZ and
some 30 kilometres south of Shiraro. The movement of the remaining population
is expected to be completed by the end of the week.
Correction: UNMEE would like to correct an item that appeared in last
week's media briefing notes. The 176 individuals repatriated by Eritrea to
Ethiopia under ICRC auspices on 4 June were NOT IDPs, as stated, but Ethiopian
civilians formerly resident in Eritrea.
Questions and Answers
Q [Addis Ababa]: How is the road you are using so far, I guess it is
raining in Eritrea?
Spokeswoman: No it isn't. It has not been raining in Eritrea as much
as (in Addis Ababa.) I am told there was some rain in the outlying regions this
week, but certainly not along that route. It is still hot and dry.
Q [Addis Ababa]: What happened to that investigation you are carrying
on, the Axum investigation?
Spokeswoman: The Axum investigation, I think it's a dead issue at
this point because we were never able to get access to the "Axum 4"
as we had requested and because we were not able to get the information from
the four people who crossed the border illegally, we have not been able to do
anything further on that, and as far as we are concerned it is a closed issue.
Sunday will be the World Refugee Day and there are messages both from Ruud
Lubbers (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) and the Secretary-General in the
event that you are going to be doing anything for World Refugee Day.
Q [Asmara]: Have you heard that the Eritrean Government have offered
to put forward their own Envoy to meet with the Special Envoy of the United
Spokeswoman: Yes, I have heard that.
Q [Asmara]: Can you confirm it as being true then?
Spokeswoman: I can confirm that I have heard this, yes.
Q [Asmara]: Where have you heard it from?
Spokeswoman: I can just tell you that I can confirm that I have heard
that the Eritrean Government has in fact offered to have their own Envoy meet
with the Special Envoy.
Q [Asmara]: And have you heard what the response has been from the
Spokeswoman: No I haven't.
Q [Asmara]: What's UNMEE response to it?
Spokeswoman: The correspondence on the Special Envoy has been between
the Government of Eritrea and the UN Secretary-General, so UNMEE is not privy
to (discuss) that.
Q [Asmara]: Would you regard it as a positive development?
Spokeswoman: It's difficult to say.
Q [Asmara]: It's sounds a bit unoptimistic from an organisation
normally as optimistic like UNMEE
Spokeswoman: No, it is difficult to say. I don't know whether it is a
positive development or not. I think we have to wait and see what happens. From
what happens we will be able to asses whether it has been a positive
development or not.
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 6017
or George Somerwill, Deputy Chief, Public Information Office UNMEE Headquarters
Addis Ababa, telephone: 251-1-726895 extension 7104; Mobile: 251 9 223031.