8 December 2005

Secretary-General Condemns Eritrea's Decision to Expel Peacekeepers

NEW YORK, 7 December (UN Headquarters) -- The following statement is attributable to the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

The Secretary-General condemns yesterday's decision by the Government of Eritrea to request that members of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE)  who are nationals of certain specified Member States should leave the country within 10 days of the notice.

The Secretary-General stresses that this request contravenes Eritrea's obligation under the United Nations Charter to respect the exclusively international character of United Nations staff. This obligation is a fundamental principle of United Nations peacekeeping.  The request is inconsistent with the authority of the Secretary-General, in whom command of the peacekeeping operation has been vested by the Security Council, as well as with the international responsibilities of the Secretary-General and the staff of the Organization.

The United Nations cannot accede to Eritrea's request and demands that the Government immediately and unequivocally rescind its decision without preconditions. This is being communicated to the Eritrean authorities. The Secretary-General reiterates the United Nations' demand that Eritrea reverse all restrictions imposed on the operations of UNMEE. In the meantime, the Secretariat has informed the Security Council of this development.

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