Alerted again by Aletheia Kallos, who said “my guess is it means an ongoing pink alert stall rather than red flag”, I’ve just checked out this Agence France Presse (AFP) article, here.
This article states that “The Security Council took Eritrea to task Thursday for continuing to obstruct a planned evacuation of UN personnel caused by Asmara’s refusal to provide fuel and food. A statement issued by the council’s 15 members following closed-door consultations ‘condemned Eritrea’s systematic violations of successive Security Council resolutions as well as declarations of its president’. They expressed support for UN boss Ban Ki-moon’s efforts to resolve the situation and said they were awaiting a special report from him ‘to deal with this issue in a more comprehensive manner’.”
Either I am very confused, or something is very confusing.
I went searching for this UNSC statement, but found none. The official UN website reports nothing about any UN Security Council statement.
The UN News Centre [the UN uses British English spellings] reported exactly this:
“Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), briefed the Security Council today in a closed meeting on UNMEE’s temporary relocation efforts. In comments to the press following the briefing, Ambassador Ricardo Alberto Arias of Panama, which holds the rotating Council presidency, said the 15-member panel ‘condemned Eritrea’s systematic violations of successive Security Council resolutions’. Mr. Arias said the Council backed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s efforts to resolve the situation and was waiting now for his special report on the issue”.
Comments to the press are not the same as Security Council statements.
Meanwhile, reports from the region indicate, if it weren’t already clear, that the situation is serious. Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) filed a dispatch from Nairobi reporting that “The African Union (AU) said Friday it remains engaged in the border crisis between Eritrea and Ethiopia but said the two parties lack goodwill to bring an end to the dispute. A United Nations mission monitoring the disputed frontier since the end of a 1998-2000 border war fought between the neighbouring foes began relocating to the Eritrean capital Asmara last week after their fuel and food supplies were cut by Eritrea. ‘We are still there. The two parties are failing to arrive to a solution in spite of what we are doing’, said newly-elected AU chairman Jean Ping. ‘There is lack of goodwill to work toward a resolution’. Tiny Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, but the disputed border town of Badme remained under contention and sparked the war that killed some 70,000 people … The frontier remains tense and with the withdrawal of the several thousand UN troops, observers fear a new war may break out”. This DPA report is posted here.
[Badme isn’t even listed on the map below, which can be seen at larger size here.]
The highlights (which are just outline notes) of Friday’s regular noon briefing for journalists at UNHQ/NY (given today by a deputy spokesperson, Farhan Haq) says that “The Council had received a briefing yesterday afternoon by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet about the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). Afterwards, the Council President told the press that Council members condemned Eritrea’s systematic violations of successive Security Council resolutions”.
Comments to the press are not the same as Security Council statements. After the media reports (Reuters also mentioned a supposed UNSC statement in one of their stories), I wonder why the UN spokespersons office didn’t clarifiy this … then, I wondered if it were somehow deliberate? That is, did the members of the UN SC agree that the SC President could make a statement to the press, that would then be referred to as a Security Council statement (wink, wink)? And if so, why would they do this, instead of clearly issuing a statement?
Really, this is all a bit strange.
Friday’s highlights also report that “UNMEE says that UN peacekeepers in Eritrea are continuing to regroup in the capital Asmara. The Mission says there were no attempted or perceived obstructions of this effort yesterday. UN convoys en route to Asmara are moving troops, equipment and supplies from all sectors of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Asked whether UNMEE is capable of performing its mandated tasks in the Eritrean part of the Temporary Security Zone, the Spokesperson said that, because of the fuel restrictions imposed by Eritrea, that work has been hindered. The Mission continues to try to fulfill its mandate as much as it can, but it is largely unable to do so on the Eritrean side of the TSZ. At the same time, he added, the Secretary-General has urged the Parties to respect the Temporary Security Zone. Asked what the United Nations is doing to inform Member States on options for UNMEE, Haq said that today, the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) was providing a briefing for troop contributors about the situation on the ground”. These notes are posted here.
A nearly complete transcript of Thursday’s regular noon briefing shows that UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists that “The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea says that regrouping of peacekeepers and their equipment to Asmara continued yesterday and today. Even so, Eritrean militiamen have prevented a vehicle carrying two soldiers to travel Asmara from the Temporary Security Zone. The Mission says the two peacekeepers could not proceed until the militiamen holding them had received instructions from Eritrean authorities in Asmara. Meanwhile, the four armoured personnel carriers held up by militiamen since 17 February in Om Hajer were allowed to proceed to Asmara today”.
Then, there were questions from one or more journalists:
“Question: The letter from the Permanent Mission of Eritrea yesterday — they accused the UN Press Office specifically of levelling unfounded accusations against Eritrea, and they said they did not ask UNMEE to regroup in Asmara, that it was unilateral and that you guys have politicized the fuel issue. Do you have any reaction to that?
Spokesperson: We don’t have any reaction to that, no. As you know, due to the lack of cooperation by Eritrean authorities, UNMEE has been instructed to resort to other contingency plans and to regroup in Asmara. That is what is being done right now, and all the personnel present in Eritrea are being moved to Asmara. And this is to facilitate further relocation out of the country. This is all I can say.
Question: Just one follow-up. Do you have anything on any massive troop movements along the border on either side?
Spokesperson: It has not been reported to us, no”.
Question: Would the Secretary-General agree with Ambassador Churkin’s characterization that the situation in Eritrea is unprecedented in its obstruction of peacekeeping?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have an agreement or disagreement — I think we have the report that was done by the Secretariat. That will be done this afternoon, I think, it is going to be the meeting. You will get more information on what our own assessment is”. This transcript of Thursday’s briefing is posted here.
There has been no official statement issued by the UN Security Council.
And, comments to the press are not the same as Security Council statements.