The United Nations has started relocating its troops, according to Eritrean authorities. United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea peacekeepers requested permission to land on Eritrean airports. Most UNMEE troops have gathered in Asmara in recent days. The first flight left on Tuesday afternoon with 50 military observers on board.
UN officials have repeatedly said that fuel restrictions by the Eritrean government have prevented its nearly 1200 peacekeepers to move along the thousand-kilometer Temporary Security Zone that separates Ethiopia and Eritrea. Eritrea’s Ambassador to the UN, Araya Desta, told VOA that his government did not play any role in UN’s decision to relocate. “The plan to temporarily relocate the troops to Asmara was a unilateral decision by the UN.”
The UN said in a statement on Monday, despite repeated blockades by Eritrean troops, its nearly 1200 peacekeepers have completed re-grouping in Asmara and in the port city of Assab. Eritrean authorities said that a plane carrying 50 military observers left Eritrean soil on Tuesday evening. “The place arrived exactly at six o’clock and departed around seven, seven twenty,” Ambassador Araya said. “There were about 50 observers in the flight.”
The ambassador denied reports of Eritrean troop buildups along the buffer temporary security zone since the UN forces pulled out. He says concern that the border conflict may renew once the UN troops relocate is not legitimate. “If Ethiopia withdraws from the occupied Eritrean sovereign territories there is no need for war.”