|Ethiopia opens airspace for direct UN flights to & from Eritrea |
ADDIS ABABA, 20 Aug 2004 - Ethiopia has opened its airspace for United Nations flights leaving Asmara for Addis Ababa, lifting a ban it imposed after the end of its border war with Eritrea in 2000, state media reported on Thursday.
In July, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi invited UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to fly directly from Asmara to Addis Ababa during his efforts to breath new life into the stalled peace process between the two Horn of Africa nations.
"In line with this goodwill, the prime minister has made it clear that the UN Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) can commence its direct flights whenever it needs to do so," the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) said, quoting an information ministry statement.
In a letter to Annan, Meles "made clear that it was the Eritreans who forced Ethiopia to ask a two-minute diversion in the air before UN aircrafts enter the Ethiopian airspace," ENA said.
After signing a peace agreement in 2000, Ethiopia banned UNMEE aircraft from entering its airspace directly from Asmara, forcing them to do a detour through the Red Sea and Djibouti, which requires a two-minute diversion in the air.
Since the two African neighbours went to war in 1998, mainly over a border dispute that remains unresolved, the airspace has been closed and commercial flights banned.
Some 4,200 UNMEE peacekeepers are deployed in a 25-kilometre (15-mile) wide buffer zone that runs the length of the border on the Eritrean side.