Security Council urges restraint ahead of border ruling

A UN Security Council mission, which recently visited Eritrea and Ethiopia, has expressed satisfaction that a final legal settlement of the border issue is on the verge of completion.

In a report on its mission to the two countries last week, the high-level delegation, led by Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby of Norway, congratulated the leaders of both nations on the progress made in the peace process. The report also welcomed statements by both sides reaffirming that the border decision - due to be delivered this month by an independent Boundary Commission in The Hague - is "final and binding".

"The international community attaches the highest importance to this decision and praises the resolution by peaceful means of the border conflict," the report stated. "The commitments of both parties [to the decision] represent a pivotal measure of their dedication to the peace process." Ethiopia and Eritrea went to war over a border dispute in 1998, which lasted for two years.

"The delegation urges, however, both sides to refrain from any action that could have destabilising effects - including population movements and movements of troops and militia - until procedures for transfer of territorial control are agreed upon," the report said.

It also underlined the importance of demining efforts ahead of border demarcation and called on the two countries to cooperate in this regard.

"In the crucial period ahead, it will be particularly important that the Special Representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, has easy accessibility to both sides in order to discuss the further steps to be taken," the report added.

The visit was the first to Eritrea and Ethiopia by all 15 members of the Security Council. The report is due to be discussed in an open session of the Council next week.