This map, which was produced by the UN Cartographic Section in September 2000, shows the Temporary Security Zone all along the Ethiopia-Eritrea border.
It was drawn to show the twenty-five kilometre deep area inside Eritrea that was created along the border, awaiting the outcome of the Boundary Commission, which would decide exactly where the border would be.
The zone was created in line with Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities drawn up by the OAU (predecessor to the African Union) of 18 June 2000.
Paragraph 9 stated: “Ethiopia shall submit redeployment plans for its troops from positions taken after 6 February 1999, and which were not under Ethiopian administration before 6 May 1998, to the Peacekeeping Mission. This redeployment shall be completed within two weeks after the deployment of the Peacekeeping Mission and verified by it.”
Paragraph 12 stated: “In order to contribute to the reduction of tensions and to the establishment of a climate of calm and confidence, as well as to create conditions conducive to a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the conflict through the delimitation and demarcation of the border, the Eritrean forces shall remain at a distance of 25 km (artillery range) from positions to which Ethiopian forces shall redeploy in accordance with paragraph 9 of this document. This zone of separation shall be referred to in this document as the ‘temporary security zone.'”
The Boundary Commission subsequently ruled on where the border lay, but Ethiopia insisted (until this month) that it would only implement the ruling after further talks. This position has now changed.
To resolve the border it is necessary for both sides to adjust the location of their forces in two ways. Firstly, they have to reposition them away from areas that the Boundary Commission ruled lay inside the other state. Secondly, Ethiopia will have to allow Eritrean forces to enter the Temporary Security Zone (where they have not done so already). Both will require careful planning and co-ordination if they are to be undertaken successfully, without further incidents.
It would, of course, be sensible to take into account the feelings and wishes of local people. This was not allowed for by the Algiers Agreement, which both countries signed. This stated that: “The parties agree that a neutral Boundary Commission composed of five members shall be established with a mandate to delimit and demarcate the colonial treaty border based on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902 and 1908) and applicable international law. The Commission shall not have the power to make decisions ex aequo et bono.” The Latin phrase means that the Commission was forbidden from using fairness or justice as criteria in making their judgement.
At the same time there is nothing to preclude Ethiopia or Eritrea from being fair of just, as they move to end this border stalemate.