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VoaNews.com: 1. Russia-Eritrea Relations Grow with Planned Logistics Center, 2. UN Agency: Trips Across Mediterranean Fall, But Risks Rise

Posted by: Berhane.Habtemariam59@web.de

Date: Monday, 03 September 2018


FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed, second from left, prior to a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.
FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed, second from left, prior to a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.

Russia and Eritrea expanded their diplomatic relationship Friday when Moscow announced plans to build a logistics center at a port in the East African country.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov disclosed the plans at a meeting with a high-level delegation from Eritrea, according to RIA, a Russian state-owned news agency.

The scope, location and timeline of the project have not been announced, but the diplomatic development is an important milestone for both countries, each of whom has sought to expand its bilateral ties.

For Russia, it’s the latest effort to forge alliances with countries in Africa, following multiple trips to the continent this year by Lavrov to discuss military, economic and diplomatic partnerships.

In late August, Russia signed a military cooperation agreement with the Central African Republic. That deal focuses on training armed forces in the CAR.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, May 23, 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, May 23, 2018.

For Eritrea, a deepening Russia alliance is the latest sign that decades of isolation may be ending, after a historic peace deal in July with neighboring Ethiopia. Since that agreement was signed, Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afwerki, has met with leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Somalia and South Sudan. He’s also received delegations from Japan and Germany.

For Friday’s meeting, Eritrea sent a delegation led by Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Yemane Ghebreab, a senior presidential advisor, to Sochi, Russia, about 3,100 kilometers north of the Eritrean capital, Asmara. It’s the latest get-together in the countries’ 25-year diplomatic relationship.

Strategic location

Eritrea’s two ports, in Massawa and Assab, occupy strategic points along the Red Sea. Access to those ports is one benefit Ethiopia, a landlocked country, may reap from the peace deal.

Ethiopia and Eritrea began talks about the possibility of joint port development immediately following the deal. Such a cooperation could involve an existing facility or one that hasn’t yet been conceived.

Meanwhile, specifics on the purpose of the planned Russian logistics facility haven’t been announced, but Russian and Eritrean leaders said the project would invigorate trade and business deals between the countries.

 

If Russia follows through on its plans for a logistics center, it won’t be the first time a foreign player has set up shop in Eritrea.

Assab is already home to a United Arab Emirates naval base, and Eritrea has allowed the U.A.E. to launch planes from Assab to fight Houthi rebels in Yemen. The port, at the mouth of the Red Sea, has a particularly strategic location less than 200 kilometers north of an array of international military bases in Djibouti.

Decades earlier, in the 1940s, the United States established a military and logistics base at Kagnew Station in Asmara for reconnaissance missions in Word War II and the Cold War.

Last year, U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher called for renewed military ties with Eritrea in the fight against terrorism.

Sanctions next?

Eritrea faces U.N. sanctions against specific individuals, along with an arms embargo. It’s hoping to use evolving diplomatic relationships to build momentum to remove the penalties.

Talk of lifting the sanctions has accelerated since the peace deal with Ethiopia, but Eritrea’s sanctions, in place since 2009, were imposed not because of that conflict, but rather separate concerns with other regional neighbors, including alleged support of al-Shabab in Somalia and a border dispute with Djibouti.

The al-Shabab issue is all but settled, with the United Nations deciding last November to disband the monitoring group that was tasked with investigating Eritrea’s links to the armed extremist group, after years of inquiries produced no evidence of ties.

FILE - Djibouti’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohamed Siad Doualeh.
FILE - Djibouti’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohamed Siad Doualeh.

Objections over the border with Djibouti, however, have persisted, with Mohamed Siad Doualeh, Djibouti’s ambassador to the United Nations, writing a forceful letter to the U.N. Security Council in late July outlining his country’s grievances, which include occupation of Djiboutian land and prisoners of war who have not been accounted for or returned.

Lifting sanctions will require nine of 15 Security Council votes, including the support of all five permanent members — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Lavrov said Friday that sanctions against Eritrea should be lifted, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency.

It’s the first time a permanent member of the Security Council has addressed the sanctions issue since the peace deal with Ethiopia and, backed by aspirations for bilateral business deals, increases Eritrea’s odds before a potential vote.

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UN Agency: Trips Across Mediterranean Fall, But Risks Rise


This Sunday, June 24, 2018 photo released by the Libyan Coast Guard shows migrants on a ship intercepted offshore near the town of Gohneima, east of the capital, Tripoli.
This Sunday, June 24, 2018 photo released by the Libyan Coast Guard shows migrants on a ship intercepted offshore near the town of Gohneima, east of the capital, Tripoli.
 

The U.N. refugee agency says people smugglers are taking greater risks to ferry their human cargo toward Europe as Libya’s coast guard intercepts more and more boats carrying migrants, increasing the likelihood that those on board may die during the Mediterranean journeys.

That’s one of the key findings from the latest UNHCR report about efforts to reach Europe. The report, released early Monday and titled “Desperate Journeys,” says that even though the number of crossings and deaths has plunged compared to recent years, the voyage is more deadly in percentage terms for those who venture across.

The report says 2,276 people died last year while trying to cross, or one death for every 42 arrivals.

This year, it’s 1,095 deaths, or one out of every 18 arrivals. In June alone, the proportion hit one death for every seven arrivals.

On the Central Mediterranean route so far this year, there have been 10 separate incidents in which 50 or more people died — most after departing from Libya. Seven of those incidents have been since June alone, UNHCR said.

“The reason the traffic has become more deadly is that the traffickers are taking more risk, because there is more surveillance exercised by the Libyan coast guards,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s special envoy for the central Mediterranean. “They are trying to cut the costs: It costs them more to keep those people here longer in their warehouses, under captivity.”

Libyan authorities intercepted or rescued 18,400 people between August last year and July this year — a 38-percent increase from the same period of 2016 and 2017. Arrivals by sea from Libya to Europe plummeted 82 percent in those comparable periods, to 30,800 in the more recent one.

UNHCR says a growing worry these days is deaths on land by people trying to get to Libya in the first place, or getting stuck in squalid, overcrowded detention centers: Many get returned there after failing to cross by sea to Europe.

“The problems after disembarkation (is that) those people are sent back to detention centers, and many disappear,” Cochetel said. “Many are sold to militias, and to traffickers, and people employing them without paying them.”

He said the drop in departures means that traffickers attempt to “monetize their investment, which means they have to exploit more people. That results in more cases of slavery, forced labor, prostitution of those people — because they (smugglers) want to make money on those people.”

Would-be workers and migrants are still pouring into Libya: Some are fleeing injustice, abuse or autocrats in their home countries further south in Africa. Others are looking for work in the oil industry or agriculture.

“I think you have more deaths on land,” Cochetel said, referring to treks across the desert in Sudan, Algeria, Chad and Niger. “Many people in Libya are reporting having seeing people dead in the desert on the way to Libya.”

In Libya, instability continues even seven years after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi. French medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said Friday that fighting between rival militias in Tripoli, the capital, has endangered the lives of people trapped there and worsened humanitarian needs — especially at migrant detention centers.

Cochetel said Europe — where some countries have shown “appalling” squabbles about who would take in rescue ships carrying migrants — should look at the root causes of such journeys. European populations need to shun anti-migrant rhetoric and realize that figures are down sharply, and migrant flows are clearly manageable at current levels, he said.

“Europe has to show the lead, has to be exemplary in its response, but it’s quite clear that it’s already too late when the people are in Libya,” he said. “We need to work downstream in country of first asylum, in country of origin, and that takes time.”

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ERi-TV, #Eritrea: Interview with President Isaias Afwerki, November 3, 2018