The UN Security Council is considering lifting sanctions on Eritrea next week following rapprochement with Ethiopia, although some members want to maintain diplomatic pressure to ensure a dispute with Djibouti is resolved, diplomats said.
A British-drafted resolution, seen by Reuters, proposes immediate removal of an arms embargo and targeted sanctions – a travel ban and asset freeze – imposed on Eritrea. It also encourages Eritrea and Djibouti to work toward normalising ties and settling a decade-old border dispute.
Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said France and other council members were keen to maintain some diplomatic pressure on Eritrea. Council members can propose changes to the text during negotiations on the draft resolution this week.
A resolution needs nine votes for and no vetoes by the United States, China, Russia, Britain or France.
When asked if Beijing was in favour of removing sanctions, Chinese UN Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu said: “We’re in consultations.”
Ethiopia and Eritrea in July declared an end to their state of war and agreed to open embassies, develop ports and resume flights after decades of hostilities.
The Security Council welcomed renewed ties in a statement at the time, but stopped short of pledging it would review sanctions after the United States, China, Britain, France and Ivory Coast raised concerns.
In September, Eritrea and Djibouti agreed to work on reconciling. Deadly clashes broke out between the Horn of Africa countries in June 2008 after Djibouti accused Asmara of moving troops across the border.
A November 2017 Security Council resolution said peaceful settlement of the border dispute would be a factor in any review of sanctions on Eritrea. Both the United States and China have military bases in Djibouti.
“The United States will continue to support efforts throughout the region towards peace, integration, and co-operation on shared objectives and challenges,” a US mission to the United Nations official said adding they would not speculate on negotiations about the resolution.
Eritrea has been subjected to a UN arms embargo since 2009 after UN experts monitoring sanctions on Somalia accused Eritrea of providing political, financial and logistical support to armed groups undermining peace and reconciliation in Somalia. Eritrea denied the accusations.