EthiopiaEritrea UN officials disappointed by Council decision to cut peacekeepers

“We are disappointed that we are not to keep as many forces as we have today, but this is a decision that we were expecting for some time,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Deputy Special Representative Azouz Ennifar said of the Council’s decision on Wednesday to cut the peacekeeping force by more than 1,000 to troops to 2,300.“Now that the decision is made, we will have to adapt to it as much as possible,” he told a news briefing in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa yesterday. “Of course, any downsizing of troops has an impact on our activities. But, as we adapted very well about a year ago to the downsizing of the mission, I think we can also do this very well.”His views were echoed by Force Commander Major General Mohammad Taisir. “I would love, of course, to have enough forces, and I hope reconfiguring the troops to 2,300 will be good,” he said.“I do hope that the new number of troops will be good enough for our side to keep going and to try to achieve our tasks, and of course to implement our mandate. But I do hope by the same token that restrictions of movement, including of course that helicopter ban” imposed by Eritrea on UNMEE helicopter flights over its portion of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between the two countries. “In that case, we will have a good capability and we can go ahead.” In renewing UNMEE’s mandate for another four months while cutting its size, the Council on Wednesday demanded that the two countries comply with last November’s resolution calling on Ethiopia to accept the border set by the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission in a binding decision and calling on Eritrea, which blames the UN for not forcing Ethiopia to accept the decision, to lift its flight ban.

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