July 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 July 2010
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AFRICA

Djibouti/Eritrea

Expected Council Action
In July the Council is expected to consider resolution 1907 of 23 December 2009 which imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Eritrea arising from its border dispute with Djibouti.

A report from the Secretary-General was circulated on 22 June. Council members are likely to hold consultations in July to discuss the report and hear a briefing by the Secretariat.

At press time the Monitoring Group for the Eritrea and Somalia sanctions regimes had yet to be re-established by the Secretary-General following the expiry of its last mandate in March.

Key Recent Developments
On 6 June Djibouti and Eritrea signed an agreement mediated by Qatar to resolve their border dispute through a negotiated settlement. The Council was informed on 7 June in a letter from Qatar which also said that Eritrea had withdrawn its troops from the disputed border area.

The agreement stipulates the establishment of a committee under the chairmanship of Qatar with one representative from each of the parties that will appoint an international company to demarcate the border. The demarcation shall be approved by the committee through a decision that shall be “final and binding upon the parties.”

The agreement also contains provisions relating to the exchange of prisoners of war and stipulates that Qatar will monitor the border area until a final settlement has been reached.

On 11 June Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun briefed Council members in consultations on these developments. In a subsequent press statement, Council members welcomed the agreement and expressed their full support for Qatar’s mediation efforts.

While Council members had been following Qatar’s initiative for some time, Eritrea until recently publicly maintained its long-held position that the border dispute with Djibouti was a fabrication instigated by the US. It had refused to comply with the demands in resolution 1862 that it:

  • withdraw its forces to their positions before the outbreak of the border clashes with Djibouti in June 2008;
  • acknowledge the border dispute and engage in dialogue with Djibouti; and
  • abide by its international obligations as a UN member state and cooperate with the Secretary-General’s good offices.

In April Eritrea submitted a letter to the Council detailing its positions on resolution 1907, the border dispute with Ethiopia, its relations with Djibouti and the situation in Somalia. It reiterated well-known positions, denying the existence of any border dispute with Djibouti. The letter was handed over to the chair of the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, during his visit to Eritrea on 24 April. (For more details on this trip, please see our 18 May Update Report.)

In an address to the Council on 19 May the president of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, asserted that the Eritrean occupation of his country’s territory was a matter of the gravest national security concern and warned against any notion that the recent meetings in Asmara between Eritrean officials and Ambassador Heller was a sign that Eritrea was becoming more cooperative.

While the agreement between Eritrea and Djibouti to resolve their border dispute through mediation therefore seems to indicate a recent significant change in Eritrea’s position, it is less clear what progress Eritrea has made in regards to the demands in resolution 1907 that it support the Djibouti peace process for Somalia and cease all efforts to destabilise the Somali government. But Eritrea’s participation at the Istanbul conference on Somalia in May, as well as its willingness to meet Heller in Asmara, are generally seen as positive signs.

Human Rights-Related Developments

Djibouti: On 14 April the Parliament of Djibouti amended the constitution to abolish the death penalty.

Eritrea: On 17 March, the Human Rights Council adopted without a vote the report of the Council’s working group that conducted the Universal Periodic Review of Eritrea. The group made 137 recommendations, almost half of which Eritrea accepted. About 40 percent of the recommendations were neither accepted nor rejected, while the remainder were rejected. Among the recommendations accepted were ratification of the ILO convention on the worst forms of child labour, the establishment of an independent national human rights institution, and recommendations on children’s rights, on female genital mutilation and on domestic and sexual violence. Recommendations rejected included abolition of the death penalty and the issuing of a standing invitation to UN Special Procedures.


Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is whether the recent agreement between Djibouti and Eritrea signals a wider change in the Eritrean positions that may lead to an easing of Council concern.

A related issue is progress toward complying with the Council’s demands regarding Somalia and the region.

A further issue is when to review the sanctions regime for Eritrea, which unlike most Council sanctions does not have an expiration date.

A final issue is whether to address factors exacerbating the situation in the region, such as Ethiopia’s noncompliance with the border demarcation decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s (EEBC) and related Council resolutions. The Council may ask whether and what lessons should be drawn from recent experience with regards to the dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Options
One option for the Council is to simply listen to the briefing and take no further action. It could also make a press statement to indicate that it is closely monitoring the parties’ compliance with the agreement.

A second option might be to invite Eritrea to present its views to the Sanctions Committee or to the Council in an informal interactive dialogue.

If further progress on outstanding issues is made in July, the Council could adopt a presidential statement to welcome Eritrea’s compliance with its demands and express its intention to review the sanctions regime.

A further option for the Council is to take up Ethiopia’s noncompliance with the EEBC’s border demarcation decision and related Council resolutions.

Council Dynamics
Some Council members see the change in Eritrea’s behaviour at least to some extent as a result of sanctions. While the mediation by Djibouti is generally seen as a positive step forward, some members caution that implementation will require considerable work and should be closely monitored.

Most members would support a formal response from the Council once a final settlement has been reached, but many consider such a breakthrough in July unlikely.

As to the separate issue of Eritrea’s role in Somalia, Council members are more divided. While some members agree that there have been some encouraging signals from Eritrea recently, others, like the US, seem to question whether there has been any substantive change in position. But members also acknowledge that it is difficult to verify Eritrea’s involvement in Somalia and that more information to assess the situation is needed. The delay in establishing the monitoring group is therefore seen as problematic.

France has the lead on this issue in the Council.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1916 (19 March 2010) extended the mandate of the Somalia/Eritrea Monitoring Group and requested the Secretary-General to re-establish it for a period of 12 months with three additional experts.
  • S/RES/1907 (23 December 2009) imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against Eritrea.
  • S/RES/1862 (14 January 2009) demanded that Eritrea withdraw its forces within five weeks to the positions of the status quo ante in its border dispute with Djibouti and engage in dialogue to resolve the dispute.

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2009/15 (18 May 2009) called on the Monitoring Group to investigate reports that Eritrea had supplied arms to insurgent groups in Somalia.

Latest Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2010/327 (22 June 2010) was a report on Eritrea’s compliance with resolution 1907.
  • S/2009/163 (30 March 2009) was the Secretary-General’s response to the Council’s request in resolution 1862 for a report on the situation between Djibouti and Eritrea and the parties’ compliance with their obligations.

Selected Meeting Records

  • S/PV.6316 (19 May 2010) was the meeting with President Guelleh.
  • S/PV.6254 (23 December 2009) was the adoption of resolution 1907 with explanations of vote.

Other

  • S/2010/262 (28 May 2010) was a letter from Eritrea responding to President Guelleh’s statement before the Council on 19 May.
  • S/2010/225 (3 May 2010) was a letter from the Sanctions Committee chair conveying a document from Eritrea explaining its positions on various issues.
  • S/2010/91 (10 March 2010) was the letter from Sanctions Committee chair transmitting the Monitoring Group’s latest report.

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