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UN Security Council Approves New Eritrea Sanctions

  • Margaret Besheer

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at the 16th Extraordinary Summit of IGAD meeting, Addis Ababa, Nov. 25, 2011.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at the 16th Extraordinary Summit of IGAD meeting, Addis Ababa, Nov. 25, 2011.

The U.N. Security Council has approved tougher sanctions on Eritrea for its destabilizing behavior in the Horn of Africa. The adoption of the new sanctions cames after a direct appeal from several East African leaders.

Monday’s action tightens and, in some cases, expands existing sanctions on Eritrea.

The council voted on the measures because of members' concerns over Eritrea’s provision of political, financial, training and logistical support of armed opposition groups, including al-Shabab. Under the new resolution, the U.N.’s most powerful body demands that Eritrea end such assistance.

The resolution, sponsored by Nigeria and Gabon, received 13 votes in favor of passage; veto-wielding members Russia and China abstained.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice welcomed the adoption of the resolution, telling reporters after the vote that it builds on sanctions resolution 1907, which was passed two years ago.

“This resolution underscores the international community’s condemnation of Eritrea’s destabilizing behavior in the Horn [of Africa] and its support for terrorism," said Rice. "It strengthens the provisions of [resolution] 1907 and imposes additional obligations on Eritrea, limits its ability to continue to use the mining sector and the diaspora tax to fund its illicit activities.”

Although there are no new economic sanctions in resolution 2023, German Ambassador Peter Wittig said it demands more transparency from Eritrea and calls on those doing business with the country to ensure that funds are not used for illegitimate purposes.

“Resolution 2023 sends a clear political message to Eritrea," said Wittig. "It must stop all activity that destabilizes the region and it must cooperate with its neighbors.”

China abstained from supporting sanctions against Eritrea two years ago and did so again Monday. Ambassador Li Baodong said Beijing prefers dialogue and negotiations when settling disputes.

“China has all along adopted a prudent attitude toward sanctions, believing as we do that sanctions instead of achieving expected results may often lead to a further complication of the situation, and effect the economic development and peoples’ livelihood in the country in question," said Li.

Earlier Monday, five of Eritrea’s neighbors appealed to the Security Council via video link from Addis Ababa. They told the 15-member council that it must act decisively to stop the Asmara government from further destabilizing the region. They also expressed regret that the council had weakened the resolution based on certain members’ objections.

Eritrea’s President, Isaias Afwerki, originally had insisted on speaking to the Security Council, but he did not come to New York as some diplomats had expected nor did he speak by video link or send his U.N. ambassador to address the meeting.