Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister and the visiting Head of the United Nations Department of Operational Support addressed Ethiopia’s involvement in UN peacekeeping deployments, notably in Abyei. Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen discussed the “good contribution” of Ethiopian soldiers in UN peacekeeping deployments with UN official Atul Khare, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said on Friday.
Mekonnen emphasized that the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), which is made up exclusively of Ethiopian uniformed soldiers, “has been playing a very positive role in sustaining peace and security in Abyei, despite numerous challenges.” The statement did not imply whether Khare, who had just returned from a visit to Khartoum, had mentioned Sudan’s proposal to replace Ethiopian troops with peacekeepers from other countries.
On June 28, UN Director for Eastern African Division of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Operations, Graham Maitland, met with Mekonnen to discuss the situation. At the time, Ethiopia’s foreign minister stated that the evacuation of Ethiopian forces from the disputed area along the Sudan-South Sudan border required the permission of the Juba government.
Mekennen also discussed a letter sent to the UN Secretary-General on July 6 by US Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, requesting that Ethiopian soldiers who have participated in military operations in the Tigray region be barred from participating in UN peacekeeping operations. According to the statement, the minister “expressed Ethiopia’s regret at Senator Menendez’s recent letter to the UNSG that failed to appreciate the commitment of Ethiopian peacekeeping soldiers who are serving to maintain peace and security.”
Ethiopia, with 6245 personnel, is the third-largest contributor of soldiers to UN peacekeeping missions, according to UN data. After Bangladesh and Rwanda, the Horn of Africa country ranks third.