What's In Blue

Posted Mon 13 Nov 2017

Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Resolution

Tomorrow (14 November), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions, after considering the final reports of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) on Somalia (S/2017/924) and Eritrea (S/2017/925). The text was put in blue earlier today following negotiations that demonstrated the different perspectives among Council members on this issue.

As with last year’s resolution (S/RES/2317), which was adopted with 10 affirmative votes and five abstentions, it appears that the most contentious aspect of the negotiations was finding agreement on the language pertaining to Eritrea. In its most recent report, the SEMG reported that it had investigated allegations by a neighbouring member state of support provided by Eritrea to Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and that it had not been able to substantiate these allegations, despite receiving some corroborating information from another regional member state and regional administrations in Somalia. As a result, the Group reported for its fourth consecutive mandate that it has not found conclusive evidence of support provided by Eritrea to Al-Shabaab, although it has not been permitted during this time to visit Eritrea to meet with representatives of the government or conduct investigations. It further reported that Eritrea continued to provide support to armed groups intent on destabilising Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Given that it has been unable to find conclusive evidence of Eritrean support for Al-Shabaab in Somalia for four consecutive mandates, the SEMG recommended that the Security Council consider disassociating the sanction regimes for Eritrea and Somalia by establishing a separate Security Council sanctions committee and a separate monitoring group on Eritrea, a recommendation that the SEMG made in last year’s report as well. As in last year’s renewal, it appears that the majority of Council members were not interested in taking up this recommendation, and it was not incorporated into the current draft.

Egypt has nonetheless maintained that that there ought to be changes to the text and the sanctions regime. They hold this view in light of the lack of evidence of support by Eritrea to Al-Shabaab, which they view as the primary basis for sanctions against Eritrea, as well as due to the SEMG’s findings that neighbouring countries are hosting armed groups intent on destabilising Eritrea. Egypt thus proposed that some adjustments be made to the sanctions regime to recognise and facilitate Eritrea’s role in combatting international and regional terrorism. When some members objected that the initial proposal was too vague, Egypt proposed that the sanctions committee, which makes its decisions by consensus, should develop specific criteria in this regard. The proposal was supported by China and Russia. Several others, however, felt that any concessions would be inappropriate in light of Eritrea’s failure to cooperate with the SEMG, and ultimately no changes to measures on Eritrea were incorporated into the text.

Much of the language in the final draft focused on efforts to strengthen cooperation between the government of Eritrea, on the one hand, and the Council and other UN entities on the other hand. The draft in blue expresses the Council’s intention to keep under regular review measures on Eritrea, in light of the midterm update by the SEMG due by 30 April 2018. It further recalls the three meetings between a representative of the government of Eritrea and the SEMG; reiterates its expectation that the government of Eritrea will facilitate the entry of the SEMG into Eritrea to discharge fully its mandate; underlines that deepened cooperation will help the Security Council be better informed about Eritrea’s compliance with the relevant Security Council resolutions and enable a review of measures on Eritrea; and acknowledges the willingness expressed by the government of Eritrea to facilitate a visit by the Chair, urging the government to agree on a date as soon as possible.

There are references in the text to the dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti. The draft urges the parties to engage on the issue of the Djiboutian combatants missing in action and to seek all available solutions to settle their border dispute peacefully in a manner consistent with international law. With regard to Djiboutian combatants missing in action, the text urges Eritrea to make available any further detailed information, including to the SEMG.

Negotiating the language on Somalia sanctions was significantly less difficult than that on Eritrean sanctions. The resolution in blue renews for one year the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia, authorisation for maritime interdiction of illicit arms imports and charcoal exports, and the humanitarian exemption, all of which were set to expire on 15 November.

It also introduces new language requesting the SEMG to continue its investigations related to the export to Somalia of chemicals that may be used as oxidisers in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices, such as the precursors ammonium nitrate, potassium chlorate, potassium nitrate and sodium chlorate, with a view to considering further action, and calls on members states and the Federal Government of Somalia to cooperate with the SEMG in this regard. This addition follows findings of increased use of improvised explosive devices by Al-Shabaab, and a prediction by the SEMG that the group is likely to continue attempts to procure oxidisers through fertilisers and/or other common industrial products, which would allow the militant group to increase the frequency and explosive weight of its improvised explosive devices.

New language proposed by the penholder on the charcoal ban was ultimately not retained in the draft put in blue. This text, which was borrowed from previously agreed language on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) sanctions, provided for the designation of vessels found to be in violation of the charcoal ban. It appears that some members, and particularly China, felt that the language was not appropriate in the context of Somalia and that it would be difficult to enforce.

On 7 November, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2383, which renewed for one year authorisation for international naval forces to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Postscript: On 14 November, the Council adopted resolution 2385 with 11 affirmative votes and four abstentions (Bolivia, China, Egypt and Russia).

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