UN slams sanctions on Eritrea over aid to Somali insurgents
The UN Security Council has imposed tough sanctions on Eritrea, targeting government and military leaders with an arms embargo, travel restrictions, and asset freezes in a bid to stop Asmara's support for Somali rebels.
AFP - The UN Security Council slapped an arms embargo on Eritrea Wednesday and targeted sanctions on its leaders for aiding Somali rebels and refusing to withdraw troops from its disputed border with Djibouti.
Thirteen of the council's 15 members voted in favor of Resolution 1907. Veto-wielding China abstained, while Libya, the lone Arab council member and the current African Union chair, voted against.
The Ugandan-drafted text bans weapons sales to and from Eritrea, while also imposing travel restrictions and asset freezes on the country's political and military leadership.
The measure demands that Asmara "cease all efforts to destabilize or overthrow, directly or indirectly" the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia.
It urges member states to conduct inspections on their territory, including seaports and airports, of "all cargo to and from Somalia and Eritrea" if there is reasonable grounds to believe the shipments contain banned weapons or related material.
The text also presses Eritrea to withdraw troops immediately from disputed territories along its frontier with Djibouti, and engage in diplomatic efforts leading to "a mutually acceptable" settlement of their long-running border dispute.
It further calls on all member states, in particular Eritrea, to stop "arming, training and equipping armed groups that aim to destabilize the region or incite violence and civil strife in Djibouti," including Somalia's hardline Islamic militants.
Libya's deputy UN ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, said "sanctions are not the ideal way of resolving problems" and would likely exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.
China's UN ambassador Zhang Yesui said the Council "should act prudently in adopting sanctions."
He stressed that sanctions should not replace diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue through negotiations.
And Eritrea's UN ambassador Araya Desta slammed what he called a "shameful resolution based on fabricated lies mainly concocted by the Ethiopian regime and the US administration."
Both the African Union and the east African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) bloc -- which groups Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda -- have been calling since July for UN sanctions to punish Eritrea for backing Somali rebels.
The United States has blamed Eritrea for fanning the violence in Somalia, a country that has not known peace for nearly two decades. A UN monitoring group has detailed how Asmara supplies arms and cash to Somali opposition forces.
Somalia's wobbly transitional government controls virtually no territory and has been unable to govern the country due to constant and fierce fighting with hardline Islamist militias.
On Eritrea's border dispute with Djibouti, the resolution reiterated the Security Council's call in Resolution 1862 adopted in January that Asmara pull out its forces and all their equipment from disputed territories and ensure that no military presence or activity take place in the area.
That resolution had given Eritrea five weeks to pull out.
The dispute over the Ras Doumeira promontory on the shores of the Red Sea last flared up in June 2008 after previous clashes in 1996 and 1999.
It has assumed a greater strategic significance because both France and the United States have bases in the former French colony. The United States stations over 1,200 troops in Djibouti, which hosts an anti-terrorism task force in the Horn of Africa.
Resolution 1907 also directed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to report within 180 days on Asmara's compliance with its provisions.