UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday asked the UN Security Council to visit Ethiopia and Eritrea to help the Horn of Africa neighbours overcome their simmering border dispute.
"The on-going stalemate in the peace process is not sustainable in the long term," Annan said in a report on the tension between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
"I would like therefore to renew my recommendation to the Security Council to undertake a mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea in order to reassure the two countries of the Council's unflinching commitment to the peace process," he added.
Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in 1993 after a referendum, but a war over their 1,000-km-long frontier broke out in 1998. The conflict ended after the two nations signed a peace deal in Algiers, Algeria, in December 2000, but tension has remained.
Annan also expressed concern over recent shootings in the demilitarised temporary security zone, a 25-km-wide corridor patrolled by UN peacekeepers to keep both armies apart.
"Such incidents could easily escalate into incidents that would compromise military stability and roll back the peace process," he cautioned.
Under the Algiers accord, both governments agreed that the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission would draw up and physically mark out their frontier. The new internationally recognised border was due to be completed in October 2003.
Ethiopia refused to accept the commission’s ruling, however, saying it could lead to renewed conflict, and called for dialogue with Asmara.
Eritrea maintained that the border must be constructed before any talks could take place.
In December, Ethiopia began deploying thousands of soldiers to the border region, in what it said was a purely defensive measure. Annan reiterated his call for the troops to be pulled back from the border.
In his report, Annan said, "The attainment of durable peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea rests primarily with the two countries. Fulfillment of this responsibility is a debt that the parties owe to their peoples."