|ERITREA: UN looking forward to "positive" ties with govít |
ASMARA, 13 Aug 2004 (IRIN) - The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) has said it is looking forward to a more "positive" relationship with the Eritrean government, after the government reopened a key supply route to UNMEE peacekeepers.
The road, which links Asmara to Keren to Barentu, had been closed to the peacekeepers since March, following accusations by Eritrea that the UN troops were using the road to illegally monitoring its troop movements.
The closure of the road meant the peacekeepers had to use a longer route, which they said would become impassable during the current rainy season.
"We have a new Force Commander," UNMEE spokesperson, Gail Bindley Taylor Sainte, told a news conference in the capital, Asmara, on Thursday.
"The Commissioner [Eritrean commissioner for coordination with the peacekeeping mission] has said, 'for Eritrea, we take this opportunity to establish a new page in the relationship' with UNMEE," she added.
Last month the British Force Commander, Maj-Gen Robert Gordon, ended his 21-month tenure as the military head of the 4,000 strong peacekeeping mission. His replacement, Maj-Gen Rajender Singh of India, has in his first weeks in charge stressed the importance of discipline amongst his peacekeepers.
"At this point the relationship looks positive," Bindley-Taylor Sainte said. "We are taking this as a sign of good faith."
Relations between UNMEE and the government soured this year, with Eritrea further accusing the peacekeepers of immoral activities. It said UNMEE personnel travelled at night and registered plate numbers of vehicles belonging to its defence forces, while others had engaged in the illegal trafficking of people, "duping female Eritreans", and making pornographic films.
UNMEE dismissed the accusations as untrue. It complained that some of their local staff had been detained, and the ability of the mission to fulfill its mandate constrained by restrictions on the movement of peacekeepers.
In July, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, visited Asmara, and discussed several outstanding issues between the UN and Eritrea.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bloody two-and-a-half-year war over their 1,000-km border, ending in a peace accord signed in Algiers in 2000. Under the deal, an independent boundary commission was set up to defuse tensions by demarcating the border.
The commission issued its ruling in April 2002, but this was rejected by Ethiopia because it placed Badme, a symbolic border town over which the war had broken out, in Eritrea. UNMEE was deployed to monitor the cessation of hostilities and to ensure the observance of security commitments by the two countries.