Eritrea + 1 more

UNMEE media briefing notes 7 Jul 2005

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A near verbatim transcript of the press briefing held by the Spokeswoman and Chief of Public Information, Gail Bindley-Taylor-Sainté in Asmara, via videoconference linking participants in Asmara and Addis Ababa. Also present at the briefing in Asmara was the UNMEE Chief-of-Staff, Colonel Samuel Nandwa.
POLITICAL

On 29 June, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, left the Mission area, departing from Addis Ababa, for annual leave.

On 6 July the OIC-UNMEE/Addis Ababa, Leandre Bassole met with the newly appointed Ambassador of Brazil in Ethiopia, His Excellency Renato Xavier, at the latter's request. During the meeting they exchanged views on developments in the peace process.

Later on the same day the OIC-UNMEE/Addis Ababa at a lunch with Mr. Francis Pierron of the Embassy of France exchanged views on the peace process in the post-election period in Ethiopia.

MILITARY

General Overview

The general situation in the Mission area remains militarily stable. There have been no significant changes in troop locations or dispositions. UNMEE conducted 649 ground and 23 air reconnaissance patrols throughout the Area of Responsibility (AOR).

In all sectors, UNMEE peacekeepers continued to provide medical assistance to the local population, along with supplies of bulk water to civilian communities in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and the Adjacent Areas. Approximately 250,500 litres of water was supplied to the civilian communities during the past week.

Mine Action

The Bangladesh Engineering Company, working in Sector West, probed an area of 6,200 square metres along the Taula Gimuja-Kerhasha road and cleared an area of 10,400 square metres at Dedilala.

The Kenyan Humanitarian De-mining Company, working in Sector West, manually probed an area of 18,227 square metres in the Grat Mariam minefield.

Also in Sector West, the civilian contractor MECHEM continued its de-mining operations, manually clearing an area of 9,071 square metres along roads in the Om Hajer area.

Meeting and Visits

During the week, the Force Commander Major General Rajender Singh visited various posts and UNMO Team Sites in Sector Center and Sector West.

UNMEE MACC

The MACC Programme Manager (PM) briefed the OIC-UNMEE, Deputy SRSG Mr. Joel Adechi, on the current crisis situation of the UNDP Mine Action Capacity Building Programme (MACBP). The MACBP has ceased all support operations to the National Mine Action Programme since the confiscation of its project vehicles two months ago. A resolution to the situation is still being sought. The UNMEE MACC continues to maintain contact with relevant partners to monitor the situation.

HUMAN RIGHTS

On Tuesday 5 July, UNMEE Chief Human Rights Officer, Mamadi Diakite, met with Ms. Helen Seifu, Acting Head of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA). The meeting was aimed at exploring the possibility of future cooperation between the two institutions, within the framework of technical cooperation programmes.

On the same day, UNMEE Human Rights Office in Addis Ababa made a presentation at a workshop organized by Initiative Africa entitled "The role of youth organizations in defending Human Rights." About sixty participants drawn from different parts of the country attended the workshop, and there was a lively exchange of views during the session.

On 6 July, the UNMEE Chief Human Rights Officer, Mamadi Diakite, paid a courtesy call on Mr. Fisseha Tesfu, Director General for International Organisations and Economic Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

SPECIAL EVENTS

The PIO office, in coordination with the UNMEE Special events Committee on Friday July coordinated solemn remembrance ceremonies in memory of the late DSRSG Sissel Ekaas at both Headquarters to coincide with funeral services being held in Rome, and in Ms. Ekaas home country. The statements of both the UN Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea were read as well as remembrances by heads of the Embassies of Norway (her home country) in both Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Questions and Answers

Question (Asmara): Could you give us an update on the situation with the Carabinieri please?

Spokeswoman: The latest situation on the Carabinieri is that this week, we were informed by UN Headquarters that the Government of Italy plans to withdraw the contingent temporarily from UNMEE. This we believe is a sequel to the decision of the Eritrean Government regarding the Carabinieri policing the city of Asmara. Of course there are conversations going back and forth between UNMEE Force and New York Headquarters, because we would like to ensure that the withdrawal is done in an orderly fashion, and that it does not impact too negatively our operations here.

Question (Asmara): Do you know when they are leaving?

Spokeswoman: No, we do not know at this stage.

Question (Asmara): Do you know how many they are?

Spokeswoman: Forty-four, I believe (and some 12 Officers.)

Question (Asmara): Can you tell me if they are, technically, the Military Police of UNMEE, do they depend on UNMEE?

Spokeswoman: I would say they provide Military police services to UNMEE.

Question (Addis): I was reading the Secretary-General's report, and it says here that the UN is investigating the shootings on 9th, 11th and 26th April near the Ethio - Eritrean border. I was wondering what conclusions the investigations have reached?

Spokeswoman: Actually that question was asked of me last week and I explained that these were old investigations. These were incidents that happened, as of the dates, the 9, 11 and 26, and we did in fact issue (the investigation results) that we had at the time.

Question (Asmara): You said the decision for them to withdraw is a sequel to the decision of the Eritrean Government regarding the Carabinieri policing in the city of Asmara. So concretely, the Eritrean Government asked the Carabinieri to leave?

Spokeswoman: No, I would not say that. I would say that the Eritrean Government has said that they would prefer to not have the Carabinieri operating in the city since they have police services that are available to UNMEE. We cannot say that the Government has asked the Carabinieri to leave.

Question (Asmara): Does UNMEE have any comments to make on the Eritrean Government's decision?

Spokeswoman: No, we do not have any comments to make on the Eritrean Government's decision. The Eritrean Government is a sovereign one and they can decide where they would like us to be within their city limits.

Question (Asmara): Under the Algiers Agreement, it says that in the TSZ there can be no Eritrean army troops, only Eritrean militia. How does UNMEE distinguish between the two when they are patrolling the TSZ?

Chief- of- Staff: They distinguish them by their ID cards. If you have noted on the protocol of the Agreement, the Militia have a distinct identification and we distinguish only by use of ID cards. In any case, we have lived with them for quite some time now, and when doing spot checks what we do is (we request to see) the ID cards and (check) that the ID cards are authentic, because we have samples of them.

Question (Asmara): Has it ever happened that you found Eritrean Armed Forces in the TSZ when you were checking if they were Militia or Armed Forces?

Chief- of- Staff: No we have not. We can use only the identification (cards,) and so far we have not met any armed forces of Eritrea in the TSZ.

For further enquires please contact:

Gail Bindley-Taylor-Sainte, Spokeswoman and
Chief, Public Information Office or UNMEE Headquarters Asmara,
Telephone: 291-1-150411- extension 6017
or our tie-line in New York: 00-1-212-963-3779-Ext 6017or
UNMEE Headquarters Addis Ababa, telephone: 251-1-726895 extension 7045.
UNMEE Website: www.unmeeonline.org