Somalia and Eritrea: Security Council to Lift Sanctions on Eritrea
On Wednesday (14 November), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing sanctions measures on Somalia while lifting sanctions on Eritrea, namely the arms embargoes, travel bans, asset freezes and targeted sanctions imposed on Eritrea in resolutions 1907 (2009), 2023 (2011), 2060 (2012) and 2111 (2013). Accordingly, the draft resolution states that the committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea will be known as the committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia. The resolution also terminates the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) and establishes the Panel of Experts on Somalia in its stead.
The lifting of sanctions on Eritrea was the culmination of regional political developments that unfolded since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace agreement in Asmara on 9 July, ending a 20-year conflict. Eritrea and Ethiopia signed an Agreement on Peace, Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation on 16 September, which was welcomed by Council members in a press statement (SC/13516). Ethiopia then pushed in the Council for the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea.
Not all issues that led to the imposition of UN sanctions on Eritrea have been entirely resolved, however. In the midst of the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Djibouti transmitted a letter to the Secretary-General on 11 July calling on him, in close collaboration with the Security Council, to use his good offices to facilitate an agreement between the principal parties (that is, Djibouti and Eritrea) on a particular method of dispute settlement, preferably adjudication or arbitration. Resolutions 1862 and 1907 of 2009 called on Eritrea to withdraw its forces to their previous positions from an area disputed with Djibouti (the Ras Doumeira peninsula and adjacent territory), to engage in the peaceful settlement of the border dispute, and to resolve related issues such as unaccounted-for prisoners of war. Resolution 1907 imposes sanctions on Eritrea for obstructing the implementation of resolution 1862 concerning Djibouti.
Over the months that followed, Council members started to discuss the conditions under which sanctions would be lifted, taking into account that over the previous four years, the SEMG had not been able to find conclusive evidence that Eritrea was providing support to Al-Shabaab, the main reason the sanctions had been imposed. Council members conveyed to Eritrea that sanctions could be lifted if Eritrea committed to resolving its dispute with Djibouti and, considering that Eritrea has refused to acknowledge and cooperate with the Council’s sanctions regime, if it were to receive the chair of the Sanctions Committee (Ambassador Kairat Umarov of Kazakhstan) for a visit and meet with the coordinator of the SEMG.
Several encouraging developments ensued, paving the way for the lifting of sanctions. On 6 September, Eritrea and Djibouti announced the restoration of diplomatic ties, following a trilateral high-level meeting with Ethiopia, and the presidents of the two states met in Jeddah on 17 September. Then, on 25 September, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed met with Umarov, in his capacity as chair of the sanctions committee, in New York. This was followed by a 5 October meeting between an Eritrean presidential advisor and the SEMG, with the participation of Umarov, also in New York.
With respect to Al-Shabaab, Council members received the latest SEMG report in October, which reported that for the fifth year in a row, no conclusive evidence was found that Eritrea was providing support to Al-Shabaab. Furthermore, the report noted that other armed groups acting against Ethiopia with the support of Eritrea have now signed peace agreements with Ethiopia.
Heading into the negotiations on the resolution to be voted on tomorrow, there was consensus among Council members that the recent meetings between Eritrean officials, Umarov and the SEMG coordinator were sufficient to demonstrate Eritrea’s cooperation with the Sanctions Committee, and that there had been positive developments on the Eritrea-Djibouti front. Thus, there was a general willingness to work towards terminating sanctions on Eritrea.
Nevertheless, some Council members were more supportive than others. Ethiopia, with the support of some members, such as Russia and Sweden, expressed its readiness to end the sanctions. The US and France would have preferred to see further commitment by Eritrea and Djibouti to resolving their dispute, such as a letter to the Council.
Taking all of this into account, the draft resolution in blue terminates sanctions measures imposed on Eritrea, while underlining the importance of continuing efforts towards the normalisation of relations between Eritrea and Djibouti for regional peace, stability and reconciliation. In this regard, Council members have been given to understand that Djibouti no longer opposes the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, provided the Council continues to monitor the situation. The draft urges Eritrea and Djibouti to continue efforts to settle their border dispute peacefully in a manner consistent with international law by conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement, or by any other agreed means of pacific dispute settlement identified in Article 33 of the Charter, and for the parties to engage on the issue of the Djiboutian combatants missing in action.
Furthermore, the resolution confirms the Council’s intention to support the two countries’ effort to resolve their differences, requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council by 15 February 2019 and every six months thereafter on this matter, and expresses the Council’s intention to keep normalisation efforts under review. On the reporting requirement, Russia broke silence over a previous draft, taking the view that reporting should be annual rather than every six months. The final draft, however, retains the semi-annual reporting requirement.
With the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, Council members agreed to establish a Panel of Experts on Somalia until 15 December 2019, instead of the SEMG. The Council expresses its intention in the draft resolution to review the panel’s mandate and take appropriate action regarding its extension by 15 November 2019. Council members agreed that the number of experts on the panel should be fewer than the eight members of the SEMG; however, there was disagreement on the precise number. Russia wanted the panel to consist of five experts and broke silence on this issue. Other Council members insisted that the panel number six, and the draft in blue requests the Secretary-General to establish a panel of six experts, in consultation with the Sanctions Committee, drawing, as appropriate, on the expertise of the members of the SEMG. The draft further calls on the panel to include the necessary gender expertise, in line with paragraph 6 of resolution 2242 (2015).
The draft resolution further decides that the existing listing criterion under resolution 1844 (2008) on engaging in or providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia may also include the planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence.
In addition to these changes in the sanctions regime, the draft resolution reaffirms the arms embargo on Somalia, while renewing the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somali security forces. It also requests the Secretary-General to conduct a technical assessment of the arms embargo, with options and recommendations for improving implementation, by 15 May 2019; renews the authorisation for maritime interdiction to enforce the embargo on illicit arms imports and charcoal exports; and renews the humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions regime.
This will be the second resolution that the Council will adopt on Somalia in November. On 6 November, the Council adopted resolution 2442 renewing for 13 months the authorisations allowing international naval forces cooperating with Somali authorities to take measures against piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia. These include operations in Somalia’s territorial waters and related operations on land.