UN regroups peacekeepers and equiment in Eritrea to Asmara

The UN announced at today’s noon briefing at UNHQ/NY that “Due to the lack of cooperation by Eritrean Authorities in the Mission’s efforts to temporarily relocate into Ethiopia, the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) has been instructed to regroup in Asmara all personnel and equipment in Eritrea.  This move will facilitate further relocation out of the country”.

This is in the opposite direction from last week, when UNMEE and its equipment were heading for Ethiopia.

The UN added that troop-contributing countries were informed of this on 15 February, and said that “As UNMEE’s regrouping began this weekend, two flatbed trucks carrying Armored Personnel Carriers from the far western border post of Om Hajer were stopped inside the Temporary Security Zone by Eritrean militiamen on Sunday”.

15 thoughts on “UN regroups peacekeepers and equiment in Eritrea to Asmara”

  1. Interesting — I just checked out the full transcript of the UN daily noon briefing (which was released well after my bedtime here in freezing cold Jerusalem), and there were no additional details given about this statement, including nothing that would indicate that the order came from Eritrea (that is, before the UN “instructed” UNMEE to regroup in Asmara, although this could certainly only be done with Eritrea’s agreement). The AP story says the order came from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), which would of course have originated it. But as it was released at the UN briefing, the statement did not mention DPKO — and thus put UNSG BAN’s authority behind it.

    The AP on the spot (at UNHQ/NY) would have access to all sorts of sources. What strikes me about this, however, is that there is no additional detail from anyone within DPKO.

    The AP story also said that such action “is in defiance” of the UNSC statement on Friday (15 February). That’s a red flag — or would be, if true.

    The statement released in Tuesday’s UN noon briefing, by contrast, said that the troop-contributing countries were informed about the “instruction” to “regroup” in Asmara on the same day as the UNSC statement, 15 February. Whether this was before or after the UNSC statement is issued is not clear…

    However, the UNSC statement makes no mention of Ethiopia, and says instead that “The Security Council also expresses deep concern about the impediments and logistical constraints put on the Mission in its attempts to organize this temporary relocation”. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sc9250.doc.htm

    It might be possible to argue that “relocation” clearly means to Ethiopia, while the subsequent order to “regroup” (apparently issued on Friday, when the troop contributors were informed, but released publicly only on Tuesday at the noon briefing) means to Asmara, it could also be a bit of a stretch — enough of a stretch to be misleading, if not outright inaccurate, if the conclusion drawn is that this is somehow “in defiance” of the UNSC.

    While it is clear that Eritrea has been set up as the bad guy, it is also clear that the UN (either the SG or DPKO) would not give any “instruction” that would defy the UN Security Council.

    The way this AP report is worded appears to be unnecessarily incendiary.

  2. This maneuver buys time of course, during which the UN will be hoping that Eritrea will give in, or change its mind.

    It also gets the peacekeepers out of the line of fire, in case conflict does break out with Ethiopia.

    What’s amazing is that there were no leaks, from last Friday until Tuesday, about this relocation to Asmara …

  3. I keep thinking about the parallels with what happened with the UN force in Sinai (stationed only on the Egyptian side of the border, because Israel would have none of it) that was pulled out by U Thant, then UNSG, at the request of Egypt’s Nasser, not long before the June 1967 Mideast war…

  4. yes everything feels amazingly quiet & serene rather than tense everywhere
    judging from the complete lack of news reports for many hours

    practically another full day has elapsed since the previous crumbs

    indeed was there no regular noon press briefing at turtle bay today

    my guess is eritrea will not give in or change her mind a bit

    & there will be no war because neither side has the stomach or pockets for one just now

    the mouse who roared
    finally & deservedly has the entire rest of the world by the short hairs
    by a score of about 191 to 1
    & i fully expect her to revel in her conquest for a while

    but the unmee troops will soon be released en masse
    i would further guess
    provided they leave the horn
    since eritrea certainly cant afford to even seem to be practicing terrorism in any sense whatsoever

    & good on her if she does keep all the equipment shorn from the unmee force

    small recompense for her totally unjustifiable loss of territory at the hands of turtle bay

    curiously nothing at all from stratfor on all this tho i have nudged them for it

  5. Why, AK, do you suggest — or seem to suggest — that Eritrea’s “totally unjustifiable loss of territory” at the hands of (many) others will be permanent? Don’t you think Eritrea will do something to get it back, if there is no positive movement in the direction it wants?

  6. I would agree with UN Dispatch that “the crisis facing the UN mission there is one of the more disturbing developments facing UN peacekeeping a long while”.

    But I am more than surprised — I am perturbed — at the suggestion, on the link at UN Dispatch mentioned above, that “Flagrant violations of the accepted rules of peacekeeping cannot be allowed to go unpunished”.

    How does UN Dispatch suggest that any such violations be “punished”, exactly?

    Calls to punish this, or punish that, or to teach somebody a lesson, are usually red flag alerts, danger ahead …

    And, while it’s going about issuing calls for punishment, does UN Dispatch feel so protective of the UN as an institution that “flagrant violations of the accepted rules of peacekeeping” — whatever that means — is seen as somehow much worse than, say, violations of UN resolutions, or rulings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration?

  7. all nice questions

    & i am still flying blind here without any professional intelligence at all
    tho i have requested it days ago from both ibru & stratfor

    so please take all following replies with more than the usual grain of salt
    at least until we can do better

    first
    i dont really think anything is or will be permanent here
    except for the already ongoing state of struggle & flux

    & by unjustifiable
    i guess i was really just thinking in terms of the purported rule of law
    emanating primarily from turtle bay & the hague etc

    in terms of actual cosmic law
    everything is already perfectly just
    yet also unjustifiable
    because what is already just cant be justified either

    second
    i think eritrea has already done all she needs to do to have won the day with very substantial gains
    & would be foolish to press matters further at this time

    badme has no strategic nor economic but only political importance

    by contrast
    the otherwise full repatriation of the tsz
    enlarges the effective territory of eritrea by a quarter or a third

    there is no need or incentive to try to regain badme at this time
    nor to do anything at all really aggressive
    since that would only invite ethiopia to respond by taking assab

    much better to just smile all the way to the bank & reposition all the abandoned unmee gear for any eventually necessary defense of assab

    & finally
    regarding any punishment or rather further punishment of eritrea by the united nations
    as if negligently keeping this tiny weak country on a major war footing for 6 extra years already
    while preempting her much needed land & fuel & food
    by allowing a fully adjudicated border to hang unresolved
    werent punishment enough
    it is such further aggressions by turtle bay as these that will only further embarrass & weaken her herself & her supposed rule of law
    both in relation to eritrea & generally

    so it seems to me eritrea only wins & keeps winning now
    with her new look ma no hands look
    & not even any more roar either
    for she can now at last actually afford to relax by one degree

    this much is long overdue

    she has played the silly game fairly well imo

    & so this outcome is justifiable as well as just
    even if also still temporary

  8. from oxford analytica today

    Global Risks
    Major changes since February 14, 2008.
    Headline risk
    The risk increased of regional conflagration in the Horn of Africa after the UN peace-keeping mission along the disputed border between Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) began a “temporary” pullout from the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ), heightening bilateral tensions. UNMEE retains only administrative status within Ethiopia, so its ability to provide a buffer is significantly reduced. Heightening tensions on the border with Ethiopia and a growing sense of international isolation in Eritrea have led to increased militarisation at home and an aggressive, adventurist foreign policy across the region, which is reducing the potential for a resolution to the border dispute.

  9. perhaps not so simply

    i believe this eritrea mouse is aggressively holding the ethiopia bulldog off with one hand
    by dint of her sympathy with somalia & ogaden
    & is just as aggressively holding the sudan bulldog off with her other hand
    by dint of her sympathy with beja

    terrifying sympathy

    & an existential dilemma for them all

    but the turtle she holds at bay
    with her nose & roar alone

    for the turtle
    this is not existential
    but just adventurist shell games as usual

    nutshells
    http://hiram7.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/eritrea_s-regional-role-and-foreign-policy.pdf
    http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5136&l=1

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