The UN announced that the main body of the UN Peacekeeping Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) has begin a “temporary relocation”, due to Eritrea’s blocade of diesel fuel supplies which poses a danger to the functioning and possibly to the lives of the peacekeepers. This “temporary relocation”, the UN says, is to “designated relocation sites on the Ethiopian side of the border”.
Is that clear?
In a rather sullen and sulky statement released Thursday, the UN rather undiplomatically pointed the finger at Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. The statement was issued in the name of UN SG BAN Ki-Moon by his Spokesperson (Michele Montas), and in it the UN also said that “Advance units of UNMEE started moving across the border, by road, on 11 February, while the main body started its relocation earlier today. So far, some of UNMEE’s convoys have been allowed to cross the border without any obstruction, while others have been stopped and later allowed to cross or asked to turn back. Yesterday, the Secretariat discussed with the Permanent Representative of Eritrea the arrangements for the relocation process. UNMEE is also engaging the Eritrean authorities in order to ensure that appropriate instructions are issued to the Eritrean troops in the TSZ [Temporary Security Zone] and officials at the crossing points, to facilitate the movement of our personnel and equipment. The Secretary-General stresses the important conflict prevention role UNMEE plays in promoting regional stability. However, without the fuel needed to conduct its operations, the Mission has been effectively immobilized and rendered unable to carry out its critical functions. The Secretary-General regrets that the relocation has become necessary, despite the letter he addressed to President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea on 21 January seeking his urgent intervention to resolve the situation”. The full UN press release can be found here.
One of the dangers in the present situation is that Eritrea is being set up as the bad guy. This will only heighten already high tensions in the region. Is that what the UN really wants to do?