Top Brass from Ethiopia, Eritrea Meet over Peace Process
Senior military officers from Ethiopia, Eritrea and a UN force met Tuesday to lift obstacles to a peace process stalled by a row over boundaries of a buffer zone between the Horn of Africa countries.
Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Wong, spokesman for the UN force deploying under an accord to end two years of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, told AFP the discussion in Kenya had been "successful" and that there had been "good cooperation".
The meeting of the Military Coordination Committee (MCC), held under the aegis of the UN Mission for Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), was held behind closed doors at a Nairobi hotel and had ended by early afternoon.
But Wong declined to immediately divulge whether or not a key stumbling block in the peace process had been bridged, saying this information would be released later Tuesday afternoon.
The meeting is "basically about the redeployment of Ethiopian forces in southern Eritrea (as well as) the rearrangement of Eritrean forces," an Eritrean embassy official said.
Under the terms of a peace accord signed by both countries in December, UNMEE is due to establish a Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) along the Eritrean side of the common border, where Ethiopian troops have been stationed since launching an offensive in May last year.
Once a 4,200-strong UN peacekeeping force is fully deployed inside the TSZ, the Ethiopian soldiers are meant to leave Eritrea, whose own troops will then be allowed to move back closer to the border.
At the last meeting of the MCC, held in Nairobi on December 28, the two countries failed to agree on the southern boundary of the buffer zone, that is the line above which Ethiopian troops would have to withdraw according to their obligations under the peace deal.
Since that last meeting, UN chief Kofi Annan's special representative to the Horn of Africa, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, has put proposals on the matter to both Addis Ababa and Asmara.
The Eritrean diplomat in Nairobi said his government's reaction to these proposals had been "positive" and that he was hopeful a deal "should be signed today."
The official said the Eritrean delegation was being led by Brigadier General Abrahaley Kifle and the meeting was being chaired by Dutch Major-General Patrick Cammaert, UNMEE's military commander.
The Ethiopian delegation was being led by Major-General Alemeshe Digife -- NAIROBI (AFP)
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