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UNMEE media briefing notes 21 Mar 2003

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UNMEE PUBLIC INFORMATION
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of the press briefing chaired in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa by UNMEE Spokeswoman and Chief of UNMEE Public Information, Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, via a videoconference linking Addis Ababa and Asmara. Also present in Asmara was Mr. Simon Nhongo, Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Eritrea.

POLITICAL

On 18th March, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) returned to Asmara from New York. While at UN Headquarters, he participated in the consultations of the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s Report to the Council as well as on the renewal of UNMEE’s Mandate. The Mission’s mandate was extended by six months, to 15 September 2003, by resolution 1466.

On 17th March, DSRSG/OIC Kane attended the Irish Medal parade, which coincided with the St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the Irish Contingent Camp. The celebrations were also attended by the Force Commander, Major-General Robert Gordon, the Deputy Force Commander and Chief Military Observer, Brigadier-General Peter. M. Manyara, Brigadier-General Abrahaley Kifle of the Commission for Coordination with the Peacekeeping Mission (CCPM) and members of the diplomatic corps in Eritrea. On the same day, DSRSG Kane met with General Colm Mangan, the visiting Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces and thanked the General for the contribution of Ireland to UNMEE.

On 19th March in Asmara, SRSG Legwaila briefed the Guarantors of the Peace Process and the Friends of UNMEE on his recent trip to UNHQ. The briefing centred on the Security Council’s discussions and the renewal of the UNMEE mandate.

On 20th March in Asmara, SRSG Legwaila briefed Commissioner Abrahaley Kifle on his consultations in New York and discussed a number of issues of common concern. He also briefed the representatives of the diplomatic community on the Security Council’s consultations pertaining to the extension of the UNMEE mandate.

MILITARY

The overall situation in the Area of Responsibility remains calm.

The 17th Military Coordination Commission (MCC) meeting was held on 19th March at Djibouti. (For details, please see our press release on the meeting).

A three member Zambian military delegation headed by Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of the Zambian Army, Major General Ralph Chisheta visited UNMEE from 10th to 14th March. During the visit, the Zambian delegation called on Ms. Angela Kane, DSRSG Asmara, and Acting Force Commander and Chief Military Observer, Brigadier General Peter M. Manyara. At UNMEE Headquarters, the delegation was briefed on the activities of UNMEE. They also called on the head of the African Union Liaison Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (OLMEE) Mr. Rodney Kiwa, and visited the UNMO Team sites at Senafe and Barentu.

On 13th and 14th March, The Force Commander Major General Robert Gordon, gave a presentation to the Senior Leaders' Peace Support Operations Planning Course in Nairobi, attended by senior international officials, including delegates from Ethiopia and Eritrea. He also called on the Kenyan Chief of Defence, General Kibwana to express his gratitude for Kenya's continuing support for the UNMEE mission at a time when the new Kenyan Battalion was deploying to Sector East. Finally, he visited the Kenyan high-risk, humanitarian de-miners, who were just finishing their long period of training prior to their deployment to UNMEE, and issued them with their official certificates of qualification.

On 15th March, the Deputy Force Commander and Chief Military Observer, Brigadier General Peter M. Manyara visited the Kenyan Battalion (KENBATT) at Sector East.

On the same day, the Sector Centre Commander Colonel Suddhasattwa Bhattacharyya distributed Certificates of Merit to 25 students who successfully completed a four-week Basic Computer Class conducted by the Indian Battalion (INDBATT) at Adi Grat.

On 16th March, the UNMEE Chief of the Civilian Military Cooperation (CIMIC), inaugurated the Semema Elementary School, 20 Km North of Inda Silase, in Ethiopia. This project was a combined effort of the North Western Zone Education Department, the UNMO Team of Inda Selase and the CIMIC Team West. Pupils are educated up to 8th grade in this school. The local community on their own initiative built a basic structure, while UNMEE invested $15,000 and funded the installation of doors, windows, concrete floors and the provision of a compound fence. UNMEE has future plans to also provide school furniture to this school.

A Nordic Joint Instructors’ team consisting of 12 members arrived in Asmara on 18th March. The delegation will be visiting UNMEE till 26 March to gain information in order to improve and develop their training methodology at the Civilian Staff Officers Course (UNCIVSOC) held at the Swedish International Armed Forces Centre for future Staff Officers. The team also called on Force Commander, Major General Robert Gordon.

On 18th March, Force Commander, Major General Robert Gordon visited Sector East and witnessed the handover ceremony between KENBATT 9 and KENBATT 11. He congratulated and thanked KENBATT 9 for their year's hard work and dedication in a difficult and climatically hostile environment; and welcomed the new KENBATT 11 to the Mission, promising a close focus on their work and a need for concentration and rigour in their support for the peace process within their Sector. He also met the 491 EDF Corps Commander, Major General Samuel Haile at the Assab Eritrean Defence Force (EDF) camp.

De-mining Contingents of UNMEE continued their work in all sectors during the week.

HUMANITARIAN

There has been no change in IDP numbers in either Ethiopia or Eritrea and the repatriation of Eritrean refugees from Sudan back to Eritrea remains on hold.

On 14th March the UN Country Team and the Ethiopian Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission issued an addendum to the original Emergency Assistance Appeal of December 2002. In this update, the Government and the UN estimate that approximately 20% of the country’s population are at risk because of the 2002 drought. Food requirements for the remainder of 2003 they note have increased from 1.44 million metric tonnes to 1.46 million metric tonnes. Non-food assistance requirements have also increased to US$81.1 million from the original estimate of US$75 million.

Meanwhile in Eritrea, a UN Country Teamdelegation from Eritrea has just returned from a trip to North America aimed at heightening awareness of the deteriorating humanitarian situation and relief needs in Eritrea. The UN mission visited Washington, Ottawa, and New York to meet with donor representatives about the low rate of donor response to the humanitarian crisis in Eritrea, which remains at about 25% for food aid pledges and 3% for non-food pledges.

Although no additional pledges were made in the course of these meetings, the mission reported they were able to give up- to- date details on the dire situation, as many donors had not fully grasped the extent of relief needs in Eritrea. As a result, it was decided that the UNCT and the Eritrean Government would revise and update the Consolidated Appeal so that priorities could be made in direct proportion to the availability of resources and, thus, elicit higher levels of donor response.

Questions and Answers

Q [from Asmara]: Verbal commitments made by donors on the extent to which they might respond to the Appeal ...(not audible)

Simon Nhongo: Thank you very much, Alex. While there were no specific pledges, made during our mission, our mission did benefit from the opportunity to brief the donors on the latest humanitarian situation in Eritrea, which, as Gail indicated in her statement, has deteriorated quite substantially. It is important to note that 70% of the population in Eritrea is affected by both the drought as well as the lingering effects of the war. The latest situation is that the response rate is only 25% with respect to food, and 3% with respect to non-food. And not many new pledges have been made in 2003, since most of these percentages actually come from carryovers from 2002. Food supplies, which are already being provided only to half of the caseload for drought, are expected to run out by end-April 2003, which is quite a desperate situation. And to further emphasize the deteriorating situation one has to know that prices of cereals have doubled lately which makes it more difficult for the people affected to get the food they need. The main coping assets, which are mainly livestock, have been decimated in most places by over 10% and those that are surviving will only fetch less than 30% of their normal value. The water table has receded by between 10 and 13 meters, which means there’s not much water available for people or animals. The global malnutrition rates, which are normally around 15% are now reported as (being) between 28 and 40% in some places. I’m saying this to emphasize how bad, or deteriorated, the humanitarian situation is in Eritrea, and also in the same way that we were emphasizing to the donor representatives whom we met. They really appreciated the situation and said they would like to have from us, when we get back to Eritrea, a prioritised list of the most urgent needs, given the limited availability of resources. So we expect some results after furnishing them with the latest information and, indeed, we are going to revise our Consolidated Appeal so that we show these latest updates. On that basis, we expect the donors to respond positively. Let me also mention that there has lately been what one could consider a little bit of "movement", if you like, in the level of contributions by donors. But this really doesn’t amount to a lot, especially when you consider that it’s going to take about 4 to 6 months for food supplies to come from their places of origin to get to the beneficiaries. So, now with the situation in Iraq, at the height of conflict and certainty of increased shipping costs, there are likely to be further delays in the delivery of food. So the situation is pretty desperate and dire as far as Eritrea is concerned.

Q [from Asmara]: You mentioned that supplies are going to run out in April, that’s 10 days away. Is there definitely going to be a break in supplies? Or is it inevitable now even if more supplies are received that there will be a period where there will be no supplies coming into the country just because of the staging process?

Simon Nhongo: We are going to appraise the situation a little bit more this coming week. It is possible that these figures, which were developed before we travelled to North America, might have improved in the meantime, if some supplies in the pipeline have since materialized. So, by next week, we will know whether, indeed, everything will be exhausted as feared. But considering that the supplies, which were already in the country, were catering for only half of the drought caseload, it is obvious that the situation will be very, very difficult. And the coping mechanisms, as I mentioned, are now almost exhausted. Of course, in Eritrea, fortunately, there is always a built-in coping mechanism with mutual support within communities. This is what hides the desperate nature or degree of the situation. The situation is pretty bad, and this is why we had to travel all the way to North America to emphasize the dire circumstances facing the country. So by next week, hopefully, we can update you on what the situation is like. And, by the way, when I say April, this is by the end of April that the supplies would be exhausted, rather than at the beginning. So by the first of May, if we don’t get deliveries, then the food supplies will be exhausted.

Q [from Asmara]: So there will be a break in the food supply?

Simon Nhongo: We are going to ascertain this by next week. When we left, the supply situation was such that this was the threat in the air.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:Obviously, there are still requirements for Ethiopia. They haven’t got 100% of what they are asking for. Do you have any theories as to why there’s been a different response to Ethiopia than there has been to Eritrea?

Simon Nhongo: I understand in Ethiopia the level of response is something like 50 to 55%, while here we’re talking about an average of 20% response. So, in a way we are somewhat envious of our colleagues in Addis Ababa. There could be a number of reasons why the response rates are higher in Ethiopia than in Eritrea. I think it is obvious that the case of Ethiopia is more well known worldwide than the case is in Eritrea. In fact, this is why we thought it necessary to go on a mission to explain the dire situation in Eritrea because we realized that the case of Eritrea is not as well known. And, when you combine this with the preoccupation of the rest of the world with the problems currently underway over Iraq, then it makes the Eritrean case much less recognizable. So, maybe these are the reasons why Eritrea’s case is not as well known. It is quite understandably overshadowed by the case in Ethiopia because of the larger numbers involved. But in proportional terms, I wish to emphasize that 70% of the Eritrean population is affected by the current humanitarian crisis.

Q [from Addis Ababa]: We’re quite used to donors imposing conditionalities on contributions. Did any of the donors you spoke to express political differences with the Government in Asmara?

Simon Nhongo: The donors did mention issues pertaining to governance or political issues, but they were quick to add that their humanitarian assistance is not tied to any political conditionalities. As far as we are concerned as the United Nations, the political issues fall outside the mandate of UN agencies. So we urged the donors to de-link the political considerations when it comes to humanitarian assistance. And, in principle, the donors do agree with us because, as someone said, "The hungry know nothing about political issues, and all they need is something in their stomachs". So we are in agreement, in principle, with the donors that any humanitarian assistance should be de-linked from political considerations.

Q [from Asmara]: Do you believe the situation in Iraq will have a great negative impact on the situation here?

Simon Nhongo: Yes, we expect it to have an adverse impact on the situation here. If for example the media reports that many of us saw on the electronic media yesterday are indeed true--some missiles were reportedly fired from the Red Sea it’s going to affect the movement of ships and other means of transport. The fact that there is a war going on in the sub-region means that the insurance costs are going to be more, which means the freight costs for food are naturally also going to increase. If the conflict should escalate to the extent where all traffic completely stops, then obviously Eritrea would have a major problem because the Red Sea is its only outlet to the outside world, given that the borders with most of the neighbouring countries are not open at the moment.

Q [from Asmara]: Do you believe that some of the donor countries have intervention means that they could use here but rather would like to save them for the humanitarian crisis likely to result from the war in Iraq?

Simon Nhongo: Yes, indeed, the impression we got was that donors were actually withholding most of their resources against the anticipated escalation of the crisis in Iraq, rather than attending to the present humanitarian crises in places like Eritrea and Ethiopia. We didn’t get the impression that the donors have any contingency plans in the event that the Iraqi crisis impacts on Eritrea or other countries in the sub-region.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:I just wanted to know Gail, if UNMEE had any evidence that the Ethiopians where laying mines in the TSZ. This is being claimed by the Eritreans.

Spokeswoman: That was discussed at the MCC and I think that it’s mentioned very clearly in our press release what happened at the MCC on that particular issue, I don’t know if the military wants to make any other comments on that specific issue.

Colonel Sohail Sabir-Chief Military Liason Officer Asmara: I am the CMLO Asmara. Regarding the mine incident in the last MCC meeting that took place on 19th of this month in Djibouti there was a detailed discussion and both parties condemned the issue of these mine incidents and both parties are considering giving a joint statement and they will do their best to stop these mine incidents in their respective areas. We have drafted a joint statement. They have taken it for study and they are considering it and hopefully in the next MCC we will come out with something positive.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:Sorry to press the point but Brigadier General Abrahaley Haile Kifle yesterday gave an interview to Shaebia news, the government news agency up there [Eritrea] saying that Ethiopia was laying mines in the TSZ.

Spokeswoman: We will not comment on something that General Kifle has said, we never do. We never make comments on what either side has said. We have said clearly and I think we’ve said more than once that as far as we know the mines are random, one and two, we do not know who has laid them and I think that’s where we leave it.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:That means that you have no evidence that the Ethiopians are laying them?

Spokeswoman: I’m going to repeat what I said; I think when Phil Lewis (Director of UNMEE Mine Action Programme) was here last week he made it very clear, we do not have any evidence as to who is laying mines. What he did say is that they are random and that is all the evidence we have right now and we haven’t laid the blame at any one’s doorstep.

Colonel Sabir: You’re right. We have no knowledge as to who is laying mines.

Q [from Asmara]: Mr. Simon Nhongo, according to meteorological prediction last week we heard that there will be no enough rain falling in the coming 2 months. Are you trying to create awareness within the international community and the donor countries to contribute to these people who are affected by drought? Parallel to that do you have any projects that can resolve the future because it looks like the future looks like a mist because if it is not going to rain in these coming 2 months, then what about next year? Do you have projects to work in partnership with the 2 parties and help these drought-affected people because I am just becoming pessimistic?

Simon Nhongo: I believe when you say in the next 2 months you were referring to the short rains that usually come during this time of the year and this is before the main rains between June and August. The harvest with regard to the main rains is usually around October or November. So, the drought in 2003 derives from the last harvest, which was in November last year. Once we realized in October that the harvest would be no good, we launched the Consolidated Appeal for 2003, which we are in already. So, what we are talking about is really the desperate situation in 2003. If there is yet another drought and we don’t have a good harvest by November 2003, it means 2004 is going to be a problem. In that case, the Government and ourselves would then make another Appeal. The Consolidated Appeal is the only project that we can talk about. For the long term, however, the Government is working on a national food security strategy, but this is not going to solve the problems for the next one or two years. This is going to take a longer time. So, for the short term we can only rely on a consolidated appeal and go back to the donors and ask for more for 2004 just like we are doing for 2003.

Q [from Asmara]: When you say that 70% of the population of Eritrea is facing drought, would it be possible to be able to be more precise, because I guess that the 70% of the population are not facing the same situation. It must be more severe for some or is all the 70% facing a very severe drought?

Simon Nhongo: The 70% is the overall figure of 2.3 million people who are affected both by the drought and the lingering effects of the war-- that is, the IDPs, returning refugees and those who came from Ethiopia and are not yet settled in a productive environment. This is out of an estimated population of 3.3 million. So if you make a calculation you will find that the 2.3 million amounts to about 70%, approximately. Many of them are affected by the drought or need food aid to varying degrees: some need more; others probably need relatively less. At the moment WFP is providing food to only half of the 900,000 people targeted for food aid. So, the totality of the food needs for the 1.4 million that are affected by the drought directly and those that are affected either by war or the general depressed macroeconomic situation covers 70% of the total population.

Q [from Asmara]: Could you explain to us when you talk about the famine and when you talk about the drought. How severe does the drought have to be before we talk about a famine? Are we close to a famine now in this current situation in Eritrea? Are there signs of a coming famine or are we still talking about a drought?

Simon Nhongo: Yes, the situation is very serious, but, according to experts, it has not yet reached "famine" proportions because when you talk of famine, you are talking of almost total starvation with extreme malnutrition much higher than the 15, 28 or 40%, which I mentioned in my initial remarks. If the food runs out and there is nothing that comes in and people starve to death, then you’re talking about a famine. So the situation is serious, but it is not yet a famine. At the same time, however, it could deteriorate very rapidly into a famine situation if contributions do not come.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:Since the SG’s report, have there been any sort of change on how the peace process is perceived given comments from Eritrea on how they could be plunged in another war given that Ethiopia says Badme...there seems to be this war of words taking place and I wondered what UNMEE’s view on that was?

Spokeswoman: I think that I have been asked that several times and as I have said before as far as we are concerned the peace process continues on track we’ve just had a renewal of mandate for 6 months until the 15th of September. The SRSG was very pleased with the new resolution because he sees it as a resolution, which is urging the parties to implement the decision of the Boundary Commission and that’s where we stand.

Q [from Asmara]: I wonder if you could just clarify for me the situation in Eritrea in terms of exactly how much cereals were asked for? Exactly what quantity has been received? What has been pledged in terms of quantities? And also perhaps a comment on the last line in here which said that, if I am reading it correctly, that you need to come up with a sort of prioritisation process whether the donors are going perhaps not to give you as much as you originally wanted. Is that a sort of a suggestion that perhaps the infrastructure here hasn’t focused itself tightly enough to how the donors like to respond to these situations?

Simon Nhongo: The original request for food as well as complementary supplies was 476,000 tons, taking into account last year’s production, which was only 54,000, instead of the country’s normal potential harvest of about 480,000 tons. Of the 476,000 expected from the donors, we have received about 112,000 tons in pledges. We will have a more up-to-date picture by next week. As far as prioritization is concerned, and in the light of this low rate of response from the donors, we are simply going to identify the different population groups according to their level of desperation. We will then present the donors with this "hierarchy of needs" so that they decide which groups they are going to deprive, if, for example, their contribution is only 25% of the needs. In other words we will use prioritization as a way of encouraging or eliciting a more positive response on the part of the donors. It is up to the donors to decide which categories they choose to exclude. So this is what we mean by prioritization. It does not mean that some groups do not need absolutely anything; it simply means that some groups are going to fend for themselves, which it is not easy. The total requirements are likely to remain the same or, indeed, increase, depending on the outturn of the weather conditions for the rest of the year.

Q [from Asmara]: Is it possible to put a figure on how many people have died or may die in the short-term future as a result of shortages? Do you have any data?

Simon Nhongo: I am afraid we do not have data on that aspect. But there are press reports that some people who have been admitted to hospitals with low nutrition levels, cannot withstand the attack by other diseases and end up dying. So, it would not be appropriate to come up with a figure of these cases and attribute them to the drought.

Q [from Asmara]: You mentioned that you are not going to have an update on any future pledges until next Friday. Do you have any sort of preliminary indication if there are other pledges that may be in the pipeline or have been made?

Simon Nhongo: Yes, there is evidence as I said of some "movement" in the level or rate of pledges. We have indications of some more pledges I cannot mention them by name until we have confirmation from our principals in Geneva and New York. But I should be quick to add that we cannot afford to be complacent because these potential pledges will not meet the balance of the requirements overnight and the contributions may be with respect to relatively small components of the consolidated appeal. So we are somewhat encouraged that there may be some contributions in the near future, but we are going to wait to see how that is going to turn out.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:The SG talks about pitfalls ahead what do you think those are?

Spokeswoman: I think the SRSG has also mentioned that we expect, -- as there have been all along, no process goes completely smoothly all the time-- so we expect that there will be hitches along the way. You know the SRSG has a saying that this process "is doomed to success" and I tend to like that phrase; and I think that’s where UNMEE falls on that.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:What does he mean by that?

Spokeswoman: That it will succeed no matter what; in spite of hitches in spite of all the things that may not go completely the way you want them to, he just feels that the will of the people to have peace will make it succeed.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:Do you think that the current exchanges between Ethiopia and Eritrea are hitches or not?

[Spokeswoman]: I don’t consider those hitches I think both are sovereign countries and they are expressing their views.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:And there is no problem with those views for the peace process as you said?

Spokeswoman: No, the peace process continues on track

Q [from Addis Ababa] How long does UNMEE expect to be here?

Spokeswoman: We’ve always said that we expect to be here until the last pillar goes into the ground.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:Is that likely to be November as scheduled by the EEBC?

Spokeswoman: I can’t say that, we don’t know. Well, we’ll wait and see what happens with demarcation, as you know our mandate is co-terminus with the end of demarcation.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:In the Secretary General’s report it was also talking about I believe or maybe it could be in the annex but differences between UNMEE and the Boundary Commission over who is supposed to protect the contractors. Has that been sorted out?

Spokeswoman: That has been discussed.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:What exactly is the problem?

Spokeswoman: I think that I am not going to comment on the comments of the Boundary Commission, which are in the Boundary Commission’s report.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:It’s in the Secretary General’s report.

[Spokeswoman]: No, it’s in the Boundary Commission’s report I know this word for word. The Boundary Commission’s report is an annex to the SG’s report and stands on its own and I am not going to comment on comments they have been made or try to interpret what they have said.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:It says here in the SG’s report with regard to provisions to security of all Boundary Commission personnel for both the field office and staff and in due course contractors, UNMEE remains of the view that this is the basic responsibility of the two sovereign governments and it goes on and on. So that’s not the Boundary Commission, that’s the Secretary General’s report.

Spokeswoman: No, that is not what he asked just now, his question refers to what is in the annex.

Q [ from Addis Ababa]:Does UNMEE stick to its provision that protection of contractors is not its responsibility?

Spokeswoman: In response to several questions raised at the Briefing on the matter of provision of security for demarcation and UNMEE’s position on this issue, the following statement by the Spokeswoman is attributable to the SRSG.

Over the last few months, the Eritrea-Ethiopian Boundary Commission (EEBC), UNMEE, and the Parties have been discussing an issue of common concern, namely the provision of security for demarcation. There are two related aspects to the issue: security for the EEBC field personnel as they carry out their work, and security for the pillar sites for the period between a site’s initial demining and the completion of the erection of the pillar.

The two sovereign states of Eritrea and Ethiopia created and mandated the EEBC in their Comprehensive Peace Agreement to delimit and demarcate the border between them. The provision of security for demarcation was therefore felt to be the joint responsibility of the two Parties, to be exercised individually in the territories under their respective control. UNMEE, already present in many areas on the ground, could assist the process by monitoring the parties’ discharge of this responsibility within the context of its monitoring mandate and without leading to a confusing duplication of function on the ground.

At the EEBC meeting in London in February, the Parties accepted their responsibility for providing security for demarcation. The issue was further discussed in March and laid to rest in Resolution 1466 (14 March 2003) of the Security Council. In O.P. 2, the Security Council calls upon the Parties "to take all necessary steps to provide the necessary security on the ground for the staff of the Commission when operating in territories under their control." In O.P. 6, the Council then affirmed "the ability of UNMEE, within its existing verification mandate, to monitor the parties’ fulfilment of their responsibilities with regard to the security of the Boundary Commission staff working in the field."

Accordingly, at the 16th meeting of the Military Coordination Commission (MCC) on 19 March, the Parties discussed this issue in a preliminary manner. The Parties agreed to present their plans and discuss implementation in greater detail at the next meeting of the MCC on 30 April.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:Just a follow up to Damien's two points, the second point as well is in the Secretary General’s report, it says that the cost has been US$ 1.3 billion or something having UNMEE here. Is that right or have I read that wrong. There is a figure here I might be misreading it...

Spokeswoman: It says Financial Aspects, yes and is not referring to the cost of UNMEE.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:Is that the cost of having UNMEE in situ since they arrived?

Spokeswoman: No this refers to all peacekeeping operations to that date. (This figure refers to the amount member states owe the United Nations for peace keeping costs globally and appears in each report of the Secretary-General.)

Q [from Addis Ababa]:It is a question on the MCC press release, I think in the forth paragraph it says that Brigadier-General Yohannes warned of the potentially destabilizing effects of the small incidents between the parties. I am not clear, is that referring to hypothetical small incidents or real small incidents? If they are real, what are these small incidents?

Colonel Sabir: These incidents are normally the routine incidents like cross border incursions, grazing issues. These are the small incidents.

Q [from Addis Ababa]:So between the parties referred to citizens of the two countries not soldiers in the two armies?

Spokeswoman: Precisely, because since last August, as you know we had a number of cross border incidents. I think that addresses what he is saying.

Q [from Asmara]:With reference to the MCC meeting, the press release says, "A draft statement on the random laying of mines was presented and is being studied by the two Commissioners". Does it mean that both parties were condemning the incidents? Can we have some more information about this statement? Are they willing to take action or are they are just condemning people laying mines?

Colonel Sabir: Regarding these mine incidents, both parties condemned the issue; they do not want this to happen. So the Force Commander insisted to have a joint statement that both parties will do everything so that these mine incidents won’t happen anymore and they agreed in principle but they said it would take sometime to study the draft and consider it.

Q [from Asmara]: As for the 476,000 tons, what is the equivalent in money terms?

Simon Nhongo: The total Consolidated Appeal is about 163 million dollars. Out of that, food constitutes about 105 million dollars; so, that is the equivalent in money terms. But because of changes in prices, shipping costs and so on, sometimes it is a bit tricky to try to relate the responses in money terms to responses in terms of quantity. When I say 25% of the food requirements have been pledged, we are referring basically to quantities that are relatively stable when one speaks in terms of proportions.

Spokeswoman: Before we close just something to think about. We’ve been asked by one organization whether we’d be interested in changing the day of the press briefing and I did say that I would put it out there and find out whether journalists would have a problem with coming on Thursday instead of Friday. Could you pass the word around and let us know whether that’s something that you would be interested in doing? Because we are exploring it at the moment as we thought that we would very much like your feed back whether it matters to you on a Thursday or on a Friday. I would like to thank very much, Simon Nhongo, Head of the Country Team and the UN resident Coordinator in Asmara for taking time out from what I know is an extremely busy schedule to be with us. Simon Thank you very much. I don’t know if you have any final words?

Simon Nhongo: Thank you very much Gail. It was a pleasure joining you on this press briefing and it was a pleasure also to interact with the colleagues from Addis Ababa, both from the media as well as from UNMEE.

For further enquires please contact:

Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman and 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