Friday, October 20, 2006

U.S. urges Eritrea pullback from Ethiopia buffer zone

Oct 20 2006 Reuters report:
The United States urged Eritrea on Thursday to withdraw its forces from a U.N. buffer zone along the Ethiopian border amid concerns the troops' presence there could heighten tensions in the Horn of Africa.

A State Department spokesman said Eritrea's movement of troops inside the buffer earlier this week violated a 6-year-old peace agreement and further undermined regional stability.

"The United States calls on Eritrea to respond to the October 17 statement issued by the United Nations Security Council by immediately withdrawing the tanks, troops, and accompanying artillery that breached the Temporary Security Zone on October 16, 2006," spokesman Tom Casey said in a statement.

Casey said the United States also urged both countries to comply with a 2000 peace accord that ended a two-year border war that killed more than 70,000 people.

"The United States urges both Eritrea and Ethiopia to show maximum restraint, to refrain from the threat or use of force against each other, and to avoid any action that may escalate tensions between the two countries," Casey said.

The United Nations accused Eritrea on Monday of moving some 1,500 soldiers and 14 tanks closer to Ethiopia in a "major breach" of the peace agreement.

U.N. peacekeepers monitor the 15-mile (25-km) buffer zone along the 600-mile (1,000-km) border as part of the peace agreement.

The Eritrean government defended its movement in the zone, saying it had a sovereign right over the area and the troops were there to work on development projects.

Ethiopia said it would not respond militarily to what it called a "minor provocation."


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