The United Nations has opened three new air corridors between Ethiopia and Eritrea to facilitate the deployment and work of peacekeepers after a two-year border war, a UN official said Tuesday.
An Ethiopian officer in charge of foreign relations and peacekeeping at the defence ministry, Colonel Getachew Tefera, had late Monday announced that air corridors were being opened for the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).
"Three air corridors opened yesterday for UN helicopters," an UNMEE spokesman confirmed Tuesday. "Three initial flights for helicopters did successfully fly via the prescribed route."
The UN Security Council on September 15 authorised the deployment for six months of an UNMEE force of 4,200, including 220 military observers, after the Horn of Africa countries signed a ceasefire on June 18, bringing an end to battles over disputed border territory which claimed tens of thousands of lives from May 1998.
At present, 1,781 UN troops from the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark and Italy have begun their tour of duty, based mainly in Eritrea, where UNMEE is setting up a buffer zone some 25 kilometres (15 miles) deep into Eritrean territory. Only about 100 personnel are currently in Ethiopia.
The new flight paths link Assab in southeast Eritrea with Manda in northeast Ethiopia, Shambiko in southwest Eritrea with Shigaro in northwest Ethiopia, and Adi Keyih in Eritrea with Adigrat in Ethiopia across the central stretch of the border, Tefara was quoted as saying by the Walta Information Centre, a media outlet close to the government.
The opening of flight paths, reserved for UN use only, follows that of overland corridors on the same routes between November 28 and December 7.
The ceasefire was followed on December 12 by the signing of a comprehensive peace pact in Algiers. This lays out the framework for future talks on the demarcation of the frontier and on issues such as compensation and prisoners of war.
Both sides were given 45 days after signing to put their territorial claims to UN cartographers. The border was ill-defined in colonial times and remained so when Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in 1993 -- ADDIS ABABA (AFP)
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