UN council demands Eritrea pullback from Djibouti

January 14, 2009

Djibouti, a key U.S. and French ally, also accuses Eritrea of seizing what it says is its territory along the Red Sea.

A resolution approved by all 15 Security Council members praised Djibouti for withdrawing its forces to pre-conflict positions and condemned Eritrea for not doing so.

It demanded that Eritrea “withdraw its forces and all their equipment to the positions of the status quo ante, and ensure that no military presence or activity is being pursued in the area where the conflict occurred in Ras Doumeira and Doumeira Island.”

This should be done within five weeks, it added.

It demanded that Asmara acknowledge the border dispute with Djibouti and take part in diplomatic efforts to resolve it. In September, the council rebuked Eritrea for refusing to cooperate with a U.N. investigation of the June clashes.

The resolution, which was not passed under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter providing for enforcement, did not say what would happen if Eritrea did not comply.

It did, however, ask U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has offered his good offices in the dispute, to report back on compliance within six weeks.

The president of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, told the council in October there could be war if it did not get involved and help resolve the dispute.

At the time, Eritrea’s U.N. Ambassador Araya Desta repeated his country’s denials of making any incursion in June and accused Djibouti of launching an unprovoked attack on Eritrea.

Djibouti hosts French and U.S. military bases and is the main route to the sea for Eritrea’s arch foe and Washington’s top regional ally, Ethiopia. (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)