More than 700 UN peacekeepers have been flown out of Eritrea over the past week, the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UMEE) reported.
Eritrean officials exclusively told VOA about the relocation, later to be confirmed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s spokesperson Yves Sorokobi.
The initial plan of UNMEE was to temporarily relocate the blue helmets to Ethiopia. But Sorokobi said this plan was not feasible because Eritrea did not get clearance for a direct move to Ethiopia. “We had 397 Jordanian peacekeepers sent over the past week or so back to Jordan. We now have 305 Indians that over the past couple of days were relocated to India.”
The United States has expressed concern over the departure of the peacekeepers from a buffer temporary security zone, which they UN has monitored for the past seven years. The peacekeepers were deployed along both sides of the contested border Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The U.S. Department of Defenes’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Theresa Whelan, testified in a hearing before the Africa subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it is against the U.S. interests for Eritrea to gain possession of military equipment left behind by the UN troops.
UN spokesperson Sorokobi assured the troops will not leave equipment behind. “The Secretary General has noted in his report that he intends to move the equipment out of Asmara over the period of three months. We will not leave any equipment behind.”