Date: Sunday, 02 July 2017
In July, the Chair of the Somalia and Eritrea 751/1907 Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), will deliver his 120-day briefing to the Council.
The Council has begun discussions on a review of the sanctions measures on Eritrea, in line with its intentions outlined in resolution 2317 of 10 November 2016. This resolution was adopted following receipt of the final report of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), which for the third year in a row had found no evidence that Eritrea was supporting the Al-Shabaab terrorist group. During negotiations on the resolution, China proposed language requesting the SEMG to present a report within 120 days to the Committee on recommendations for lifting sanctions imposed on Eritrea, including benchmarks and a timeframe. This proposal was supported by Angola, Egypt, Russia and Venezuela. However, this was not acceptable to some members. As penholder, the UK brokered a compromise text that included expressing the Council’s “intention to review measures on Eritrea in light of the upcoming midterm update by the SEMG due by 30 April 2017 and taking into account relevant Security Council resolutions”, which some members preferred as it did not prejudge the outcome of the review. Angola, China, Egypt, Russia and Venezuela all abstained, and the resolution was adopted with only ten affirmative votes.
On 17 May, Council members met in consultations to begin discussions on the review. The UK apparently wanted to take stock of the positions of all members in this meeting, with the intention of drafting a presidential statement that would enshrine a road map on the way forward on Eritrea sanctions. Council members held one subsequent meeting to brainstorm about potential elements of such a text. While this would probably not change existing requirements on Eritrea, it could include confidence-building measures and ideas for improving the Council’s engagement with Asmara. At press time, a statement had not yet been drafted. Given that sanctions are imposed on Eritrea not only due to alleged support to Al-Shabaab, but also due to ongoing conflict between Eritrea and Djibouti, the process of drafting a presidential statement became complicated by developments in the situation between those countries.
Qatar, which had been mediating the conflict between Eritrea and Djibouti since 2010, withdrew its 450 peacekeeping forces from the border area on 14 June and announced that it was no longer going to mediate between the feuding countries. The Eritrean government has said that Qatar did not provide an explanation for its “hasty” withdrawal. On 16 June, Djibouti accused Eritrea of occupying disputed territory along the border after the Qatari withdrawal. The move by Qatar came after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed financial embargoes, among other measures, on 5 June. The African Union (AU) Commission said in a statement the following day that Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat was available to Djibouti and Eritrea to help “normalise their relations and promote good neighbourliness”, and that the Commission, in consultation with the parties, had undertaken to deploy a fact-finding mission on the border. Security Council resolution 2317 had encouraged further mediation efforts by Qatar in order to resolve the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea and the question of Djiboutian combatants missing in action since the clashes in 2008, determining that their dispute continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region.
Ethiopia called for a 19 June briefing under “any other business” on the situation following Qatar’s withdrawal. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun briefed Council members. Following the meeting, Council President Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) delivered agreed elements to the press. He said that the members of the Council welcomed the intention of the AU to deploy a fact-finding mission, and looked forward to working with the AU to maintain an atmosphere of calm and restraint. He said that the members of the Council called on the parties to resolve the border dispute peacefully, in a manner consistent with international law, and said the Council would welcome the consideration of future confidence-building measures, and will continue to follow the situation closely.
The last Chair’s briefing took place on 13 April. Umarov told the Council that the Committee had received notifications related to the arms embargo on Somalia and was working on the issues of sanctions violations and actions of armed groups. He announced a possible future visit of the Committee to the Horn of Africa. During the reporting period, the SEMG had again found no links between Al-Shabaab and Eritrea, he said, but it had raised concerns about disappearances of Djiboutian troops after the Djibouti-Eritrea border clashes and had examined Eritrea’s compliance with relevant Council resolutions. The SEMG also investigated the origin and destination of a cache of 25,000 firearms found in Somalia. Umarov relayed that the SEMG was primarily concerned with the threats posed by continuing illegal fishing and Al-Shabaab’s involvement in the charcoal trade.
On 11 May 2017, UK, Somalia, the UN and the AU co-chaired a conference in London on Somalia, attended by 42 friends and partners of Somalia. The conference focused on the agreement of a Security Pact, adopted by Somalia and the international community, which will allow for long-term security based on mutual accountability. A subsequent communiqué addressed various issues including sanctions, in which it stated that while Somalia is able to import weapons and ammunition under the terms of the partially suspended UN arms embargo, partners also committed to continuing to support Somalia’s ongoing efforts to build stronger weapons management and control capacities. It stated that these actions are an important step towards creating the conditions for any further suspension of the arms embargo, on which the Federal Government of Somalia will continue to engage with the Security Council.
The key issue on sanctions is determining how to approach the review of Eritrea sanctions, especially in light of Qatar’s withdrawal as mediator between Eritrea and Djibouti and its withdrawal of troops from the border. Relatedly, the Council must now ascertain whether the withdrawal necessitates any action on its part to ensure the maintenance of international peace and security.
Another issue is assessing the Federal Government of Somalia’s management of arms and ammunition and implementation of maritime interdiction measures regarding arms and charcoal.
One option for the Council would be to resume discussions on a presidential statement concerning the review of Eritrea sanctions. Such a statement could also provide an opportunity for the Council to address the new tensions between Eritrea and Djibouti. However, given the various complications with such a text, the Council could instead opt to adopt a statement focusing only on the Djibouti border issue and urging that specific confidence-building measures be taken by the parties.
Regarding sanctions, the Council is divided between those members who believe it should reconsider sanctions measures against Eritrea, in light of the absence of any findings by the SEMG of evidence of support to Al-Shabaab, and those who stress that Eritrea’s other activities in the region also warrant sanctions. All Council members would like to see Eritrea increase its engagement with the UN, though some advocate a visit by the chair of the Sanctions Committee as a first step, and others view this as being insufficient and object to a potential solo visit by the chair, arguing that he must be accompanied by the sanctions coordinator.