The UN Security Council unanimously voted to lift a nearly decade-old arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Eritrea after a rapprochement with Ethiopia and thawing of relations with Djibouti.
The British-drafted resolution urged Eritrea and Djibouti to work towards normalising ties and settling a border dispute. It asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report to the council on progress by February 15 and then every six months.
The measures against Eritrea – which include a travel ban and asset freeze on certain people and entities – were imposed in 2009 after UN experts accused it of supporting armed groups in Somalia. Eritrea denied the accusations.
British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce said the resolution “recognises improvements in regional peace and security.”
“Not only is it an important step for the countries in the region, it sends a helpful wider signal to the international community that if the right steps are taken sanctions can be lifted,” Pierce said.
The Security Council currently has more than a dozen sanctions regimes in place, including measures on North Korea.
Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Meskel posted on Twitter: “The Government of Eritrea welcomes this belated decision to redress injustice, almost a decade after nefarious acts were taken inculcating indefensible harm on the country.”
Dutch UN Ambassador Karel van Oosterom told reporters the council action provides Eritrea with a “good basis for improving the human rights situation.” Eritrea rejected UN accusations of rights abuses, including alleged extrajudicial killings and torture.
The resolution also removes a requirement for countries to ensure people or companies working in Eritrea’s mining sector prevented funds from being diverted and used to undermine peace and security in the region.
In July, Ethiopia and Eritrea declared an end to their state of war and agreed to open embassies, develop ports and resume flights between the two countries after decades of hostilities.
“All this means Eritreans can live normally again. It could mean youngsters may not need to be soldiers again,” Eritrean refugee Luwam (27) said of the lifting of sanctions and Ethiopian peace deal. “That is my hope,” said the Eritrean refugee who crossed into Sudan before making her way into Ethiopia last month.
Eritrea and Djibouti agreed in September 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.
Both the United States and China have military bases in Djibouti.
The United Arab Emirates has a military base in Eritrea, used as part of the Saudi-led offensive against Houthi rebels in Yemen, which lies 40 km across the Red Sea from the Horn of Africa nation.
In a report to the Security Council last month, UN sanctions monitors signalled a continuing expansion of the military base in Assab was in breach of the arms embargo on Eritrea because it did “not allow for military activities by member states involving transfer of military materiel and personnel to Eritrean territory.”
The United Arab Emirates UN mission said at the time the country was “in full compliance with the sanctions imposed.” Eritrea refused to allow UN monitors to visit.