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        Asmara High Rise Project 26-30 June, 2004
 Intercontinental Hotel, Asmara, Eritrea

Eritrea grants audience with Axworthy, offers to send Envoy

ASMARA, 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.


General Overview

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 operations.

Mine Action

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 Nations.

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 UN?

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.