The following is a near-verbatim transcript of the press briefing chaired in the Eritrean capital, Asmara by UNMEE Spokesperson and Chief of UNMEE Public Information, Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, via a videoconference linking Addis Ababa and Asmara.
On 13th January, the Special Representative of the Secretary General Legwaila Joseph Legwaila departed Asmara for New York, where he is attending a conference organized by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) for Heads of Missions at the UN Headquarters.
On 13th January in Addis Ababa, the Force Commander Major-General Robert Gordon paid a courtesy visit to His Excellency Amara Essy, the Acting Chairman of the African Union. The Force Commander briefed Mr. Essy on the current developments in the peace process. During that meeting, Mr. Essy reiterated the African Union's support to UNMEE and the peace process.
On the same day in Addis Ababa, the Force Commander met with the US Ambassador to Ethiopia Her Excellency Ms. Aurelia Brazeal for an exchange of views on the prevailing situation of the peace process.
He also held a meeting on 14th January with the Ethiopian Chief of Army Staff, General Samora. The discussion centred on the peace process in general, and the situation in the Central Sector in particular. In another meeting on the same day with the United Kingdom Ambassador to Ethiopia His Excellency Myles Wickstead, the Force Commander briefed the Ambassador on the latest developments in the peace process.
On 15th January in Addis Ababa, The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General who is currently, the Officer In Charge (OIC) of UNMEE, Mr.Cheikh-Tidiane Gaye, held a discussion with His Excellency Erkki Tuomioja, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland, who has been leading a high-level Finnish delegation to Ethiopia. Mr.Gaye briefed the delegation on UNMEE's mandate and the peace process.
The overall situation in the Area of Responsibility remains calm.
A military delegation from Jordan, headed by Brigadier General Muhammad Mustafa Al Zqaili, which arrived in Asmara on 8th January, is continuing its visit of the Jordanian Battalion (JORBAT) contingents and the sectors under the command of UNMEE peacekeepers. The delegation called on Force Commander Major General Robert Gordon and SRSG Legwaila Joseph Legwaila on 11th and 13th January, respectively. The delegation is scheduled to leave Asmara on 22nd January.
Currently, Canadian and Finish military delegations are also visiting UNMEE.
On 10th January, Force Commander Gordon presided over the UN Medal Presentation Ceremony of the Indian Battalion (INDBAT) at Camp Dunn.
The hand-over ceremony from JORBAT 4 to 5 was conducted in the Western Sector at Barentu on the 15th of January. The Force Commander inspected the parade, and took the salute. The visiting Jordanian delegation was also present for the occasion.
De-mining Contingents of UNMEE continued their work in all sectors during the week. On 14th January, the Kenyan Battalion (KENBAT) Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team successfully destroyed three High Explosive mortar bombs, one grenade and assorted small arms ammunitions found on 9th January in the vicinity of Point 44 in Sector East.
Q and A
Question [from Addis Ababa]: Just in the fourth paragraph of the political it was mentioned that the Ethiopian Chief of Army Staff met with the Force Commander and they discussed the situation in the Central Sector in particular. What exactly does it refer to?
Spokeswoman: That refers to the cross border incidents in the Central Sector
Question [from Addis Ababa]: Could you be more specific?
Spokeswoman: I am sure that you are aware that we have had a number of cross border incidents particularly into areas, in Drum Drum and Monoxito and those incidents have been discussed at various levels, both with senior officials and more recently with local officials and those discussions have been conducted more recently by the Force Commander and that is what that refers to; bringing the General up-to-date on the discussions.
Question [from Addis Ababa]: I was just wondering whether there has been any progress in the report on the person that was shot at the border.
Spokeswoman: The investigation continues at this time.
Q [from Asmara]: I have heard that the Commander of the Irish Contingent has ordered his troops not to go the Green Pub and the Pub lost so much business that the manager actually came to UNMEE and has asked UNMEE to (rescind) that order. Is it true?
Spokeswoman: I am just asking the Military (PIO) and he is saying to me that it must have been an internal order.
Military PIO: Maybe it was an internal arrangement by the Irish Contingent, which is not a matter of UNMEE and actually I am not aware of it.
Spokeswoman: If there is nothing further, I just want to let you know of something that we will do next week in advance and that is, UNMEE is going to launch its calendar next week. I am deliberately holding it back until next week because the calendars are arriving in Addis Ababa as we speak. I wanted to be able to make sure that they are already there, so that when we say that they are ready for distribution you will know that they are already there. We have already begun with distribution here in Asmara. We hope that as soon as they get to Addis today distribution will start, but we would like to publicize the calendar. It's a beautiful calendar, we think. It features the work of six artists in Eritrea and six artists in Ethiopia. We hope that you will like the pictures and that you will certainly use them (the calendars) and that you will publicize our calendar as much as possible. We have copies downstairs, which probably those of you here can have today, but we would like to officially launch it next week when it is already in Addis and Jorge, our photographer who took the photographs will be here to say a few words as well. So look out for the UNMEE's 2003 Calendar. Thank you very much.
For additional information please contact:
Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Acting Chief
of Public Information
UNMEE Headquarters Addis Ababa, telephone: 251-1-726895; Mobile: 251 9 223031
Or UNMEE Headquarters Asmara, telephone: 291-1-150411
or our tie-line in New York: 00-1-212-963-3779