Eritrea rejects sanctions

2009-12-02 08:47

New York - Eritrea said a proposed UN resolution calling for sanctions against the tiny Red Sea nation for supplying arms to opponents of the Somali government is "politically motivated" and based on "unfounded accusations".

In a letter to the Security Council circulated on Tuesday, Eritrea's UN Ambassador Araya Desta said his government is convinced there can be no military solution in Somalia and does not favour one party over another.

"Eritrea firmly holds that a durable and sustainable solution requires the participation of all key Somali actions in an inclusive political process," he said.

A UN panel monitoring an arms embargo against Somalia has accused Eritrea of secretly shipping large quantities of arms, including missiles and explosives, to Islamic insurgents trying to overthrow Somalia's Western-backed transitional government.

The United States and Britain have also accused Eritrea of supplying weapons to al-Shabab and other militias trying to destabilise Somalia in violation of the UN arms embargo. Britain and the African Union have called for sanctions against Eritrea.

Violence or terrorist attacks

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other, plunging the country into chaos and anarchy. The fragile UN-backed government and an undermanned, poorly resourced African Union peacekeeping force have struggled to defend government buildings, the port and airport in the capital, Mogadishu - most recently rebuffing an offensive by al-Shabab and the allied Islamic Party.

The draft resolution circulated by Uganda to the 14 other Security Council members would impose an arms embargo, call on UN member states to inspect all suspect cargo between Eritrea and Somalia, and impose a travel ban and asset freeze on Eritrea's political and military leadership. It would also freeze the assets of government and private companies that violate the arms embargo.

The draft resolution also calls for financial and travel sanctions against any Eritrean individuals or entities that support Somalia's armed opposition, obstruct implementation of a council resolution demanding that Eritrea pull its troops back from the Djibouti border, or support acts of violence or terrorist acts in the region.

Some council members are privately concerned that the proposed resolution is too tough and might make it even more difficult to deal with Eritrea.

Desta, the Eritrean ambassador, said the decision to seek sanctions when the UN panel of experts hasn't concluded its investigation of alleged violations of the arms embargo against Somalia "shows that it is indeed a politically motivated move by the authors of the draft text in order to exert pressure on Eritrea for extraneous objectives."

Unfounded accusations

"The draft resolution is based on unfounded accusations against Eritrea on the issue of Somalia," he said.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war. It has been feuding over its border with Ethiopia ever since, and uncertainty over its border with the tiny port nation of Djibouti led to hostilities between the two countries twice in the 1990s.

In June 2008, the Security Council condemned Eritrea for launching an attack against Djibouti, a key US ally in the Horn of Africa, which the U.S. said left 44 Djiboutian soldiers dead and many more missing. The council called for a cease-fire and urged the two countries to withdraw their forces from the border, which overlooks key Red Sea shipping lanes. Djibouti did, but Eritrea has not.

The draft resolution demands that Eritrea withdraw its forces from the Djibouti border.

Desta stressed the importance of the international boundary commission's 2002 ruling on the Eritrea-Ethiopia border which awarded the key town of Badme to Eritrea. Ethiopia has refused to accept the ruling.

"The matter cannot remain shelved in perpetuity if peace and stability are to take root in the region," Desta said. "Not only is it important on its own merit, but it is at the heart of the turbulent situation in the Horn of Africa, including the current difficult relations between Djibouti and Eritrea."

Eritrea therefore is urging the Security Council to ensure that Ethiopia honours the boundary commission ruling and withdraws its troops "from sovereign Eritrean territories that it is illegally occupying," he said.