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

Eritrea urges UNMEE to stay until completion of mandate


UNMEE, 5 July, 2004- The 25th meeting of the Military Coordination Commission (MCC) was held on 5 July 2004 in Nairobi.

The meeting was chaired by the Force Commander of the United Nations Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), Major-General Robert Gordon. Brigadier-General Elliot Kamteni represented the African Union (AU). Ethiopia's military delegation was led by Brigadier-General Yohannes Gebremeskel and Eritrea's military delegation by Brigadier-General Abrahaley Kifle.


In his opening statement, the Force Commander welcomed participants to the last meeting he would chair. He reviewed the meeting of the UN Secretary-General's visit to Eritrea and Ethiopia between 3rd -- 6th July, and said that Mr. Kofi Annan's presence had brought a high level of international attention to the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process, adding that the SG had held a meeting with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. He also discussed the visit of the Review Team from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and thanked both Commissioners for their constructive and helpful comments to the team.


Turning to the military situation, the FC said that this had been relatively calm with some improvements. He said that UNMEE peacekeepers had noticed this in their daily operations. He thanked the Parties for their cooperation in this regard. He added: "It is fair to say that the number of incidents has been reduced, as has the military rhetoric. At the same time the level of cooperation with UNMEE is better than in the period before the last MCC meeting. All this is positive."


Commenting on his 21 months of chairing the MCC, General Gordon who leaves UNMEE on 23 July, said that he had come to the process with great optimism but was clearly disappointed that the MCC's work in support of the demarcation had still not started. He nevertheless added that the MCC process with its subordinate Sector MCCs had proved to be constructive and useful and a positive force for stability, but he was sad to leave as there was so much unfinished business.


Brigadier-General Yohannes Gebremeskel thanked the Force Commander for his role in the MCC process. He said that though the MCC process had been both challenging and complicated it had been helpful to both Parties, adding that UN troops had undoubtedly helped Ethiopia and Eritrea to maintain peace in the TSZ. General Yohannes said that Ethiopia appreciated the contribution and impartiality of the Force Commander as Chairman of the MCC; especially his role in establishing the Sector MCCs. These meetings he said had played a positive role in resolving local issues. The security of the TSZ he said was a springboard for peace in the region, and he was convinced of the positive role UNMEE had played in this.


Brigadier-General Abrahaley on his part said that said that everyone was aware where the problem with demarcation lay but that the international community was reluctant to point the finger at Ethiopia. He said it was very frustrating that the UN was now talking about troop reductions instead of speeding up the demarcation process. General Abrahaley said that if the Mission was to carry out its monitoring functions effectively, there should be more troops on the ground and he urged UNMEE to remain in the Mission area until the completion of its mandate. General Abrahaley thanked the departing Sector Centre Commander, Colonel Anand Rawat Singh for all the good work that the Indian peacekeepers had done in Central Sector. Thanking the Force Commander for his efforts and professionalism, he explained that he respected the differences he had had with the Force Commander and recognised their similarities. He urged the Force Commander not to forget Eritrea, stressing that Eritrea would not forget him.


A review leading to a discussion of the military situation was presented by Colonel Shahjahan Mollah, the Chief Military Liaison Officer based in Asmara, while UNMEE's Sector Centre Commander, Colonel Anand Singh Rawat gave a presentation on the progress of Sector MCCs, which he said had been a success in all three sectors. Participants agreed to hold the next MCC meeting under the chairmanship of the new Force Commander on 6th September at a location to be agreed.


For additional information contact the UNMEE Public Information Offices:
Addis Ababa, phone 251-1-443396; Asmara, phone: 291-1-151908