Eritrea : UNSC votes to lift sanctions

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously adopted a British-drafted resolution on lifting sanctions against Eritrea, following a rapprochement with neighboring Ethiopia and the thawing of relations with Djibouti.
The decision, taken on Wednesday, would immediately end an arms embargo, travel bans, and asset freezes against Eritrea and its leaders.

The punitive measures had been put in place in 2009 after the UN accused the small country in the Horn of Africa of arming and training the Takfiri al-Shabab terrorist group and other militant outfits, which are wreaking havoc in Somalia, a neighbor of Eritrea to the south, and other regional countries.

Asmara, however, has denied the allegations and attributed the sanctions primarily to US hostility.

“The government of Eritrea welcomes this belated decision to redress injustice, almost a decade after nefarious acts were taken, inculcating indefensible harm on the country,” said Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Meskel on Wednesday, shortly after the UNSC vote.

The resolution said that UN monitors had “not found conclusive evidence that Eritrea supports al-Shabab,” declaring that the sanctions and arms embargo ended with the adoption of the measure.

British Ambassador to the UN Karen Pierce said the newly-adopted resolution recognized the improvements in regional “peace and security.”

“Not only is it a very important step for the countries in the region, I think it sends a helpful wider signal to the international community that if the right steps are taken, sanctions can be lifted,” she added.

Diplomats had already said before the UNSC vote that the body was expected to vote to lift the sanctions on Eritrea.

Eritrea and Ethiopia severed their relations following a border dispute that claimed nearly 80,000 lives in the late 1990s. However, in July, the two countries unexpectedly agreed to resume their diplomatic and commercial relations and end hostilities, a move that was hailed as a historic moment in the history of the conflicted Horn of Africa.

The two African neighbors in a fence-mending effort, agree to resume their diplomatic and commercial relations, signaling an end to almost two decades of hostility.

The agreement reached between Asmara and Addis Ababa required the pair to put an end to their state of war, open embassies, develop ports, and resume flights to the two countries. Efforts to remove the UNSC sanctions commenced after that rapprochement.

According to Dutch UN Ambassador Karel van Oosterom, the decision provided Eritrea with a “good basis for improving the human rights situation” in the country.

Asmara has long denied UN accusations of rights abuses in the country, including alleged extrajudicial killings and torture.

Meanwhile, Eritrea is engaged in a 2008 border dispute with another Horn of Africa country, Djibouti, where the US, China, and France have military bases.

The resolution passed on Wednesday calls on Eritrea and Djibouti to continue efforts to resolve the border dispute and asks Asmara to release information concerning the Djiboutian troopers who went missing in clashes a decade earlier.

France has requested that the UNSC hear a report every six months on Eritrea’s efforts to normalize relations with Djibouti. The first report on progress will be heard by February 15, 2019.

By Africafrique and agencies

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