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Dr Abdul Majid Hussein, Ethiopian Ambassador to UN
"Where we are at the moment is where we should be"
 real 28k

Stephen Morrison, regional specialist
"It's quite possible that this dispute ties back to internal debate"
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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 11:15 GMT
Setback for Horn peace deal
Ethiopian troops pulling back
The Ethiopian withdrawal was confirmed two weeks ago
The United Nations has said that the return of Ethiopian troops to the buffer zone with Eritrea is a problem.

The UN said on Thursday that it had seen three companies of soldiers six kilometres (four miles) within the planned Temporary Security Zone (TSZ).


We've reached a set back... there's no doubt about it

UN spokesman
The TSZ was agreed under a ceasefire plan that ended the two-and-a-half year conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Ethiopia admits that its soldiers have moved back but disputes the UN claim that the area in question is actually in the TSZ.

Return

In a statement, the UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (Unmee) said that it had verified Ethiopia's withdrawal from the TSZ on 7 March.

A week later Unmee spotted three separate groups of Ethiopian soldiers back inside the TSZ, in an area south-east of Senafe.

In an interview with the BBC, UN spokesman Lieutenant Commander Albert Wong admitted that the peace process has "reached a set back".

Complaint

He added that the UN had lodged a protest with the Ethiopian authorities, who had responded by saying they would not withdraw their forces from this area.

UN soldier in buffer zone
The UN is eager to patrol the buffer zone
Ethiopia says the places where their troops are deployed are not within the UN buffer zone.

For its part, Eritrea has refused to complete its troop withdrawal from the TSZ because it also disputes the boundaries.

Problem?

Despite these problems UN spokesman Lieutenant Commander Wong said that "both sides are committed to peace".

He cited the fact that at times during the ceasefire process, the two armies have been 100 metres (325 feet) apart without firing a shot.

He also said that the TSZ was an area 900km (550 miles) long and 25km (15 miles) deep, and the problems were only in "pockets" of that area.

On the political front, the UN Secretary General's special representative is working on the problem. He is currently in the Eritrean capital Asmara.

The Unmee force commander met with his Ethiopian counterpart, General Alemshet, on Thursday and has now also flown to Eritrea.

Good news

Meanwhile there is more positive news from the Hague.

The two commissions designed to sort out the border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia under last December's peace agreement are to meet for the first time from the weekend.

On Sunday the boundary commission will meet, despite Ethiopian objections to one of the two commissioners proposed by Eritrea.

And early next week the claims commission will also be convened, to start sorting out the compensation owed to those displaced by the war.

The commissioners will be meeting representatives of both governments and adopting the rules under which they will proceed.

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See also:

13 Mar 01 | Africa
Is Horn peace under threat?
28 Feb 01 | Africa
Horn buffer zone hits snag
24 Feb 01 | Africa
Ethiopia says pull-out complete
18 Feb 01 | Africa
Eritrea's pull-back begins
13 Feb 01 | Africa
Relief as Ethiopian troops leave
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