By Michelle Nichols
(Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council is considering lifting sanctions on Eritrea next week after a rapprochement with Ethiopia, although some members want to maintain some diplomatic pressure to ensure a dispute with Djibouti is resolved, diplomats said on Monday.
A British-drafted resolution, seen by Reuters, proposes the immediate removal of an arms embargo and targeted sanctions – a travel ban and asset freeze – imposed on Eritrea. It also strongly encourages Eritrea and Djibouti to work towards normalizing ties and settling a decade-old border dispute.
However, diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said France and some other council members were keen to maintain some sort of 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 in favour and no vetoes by the United States, China, Russia, Britain or France.
When asked if Beijing was in favour of removing sanctions, Chinese U.N. 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 between the two countries after decades of hostilities.
The Security Council welcomed the renewed ties in a statement at the time, but it stopped short of pledging that it could review sanctions after the United States, China, Britain, France and Ivory Coast raised concerns about linking the development.
Then 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 the 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 cooperation on shared objectives and challenges,” said a U.S. mission to the United Nations official, adding that they would not speculate on negotiations on the resolution.
Eritrea has been subjected to a U.N. arms embargo since 2009 after U.N. experts monitoring sanctions on Somalia accused Eritrea of providing political, financial and logistical support to armed groups undermining peace and reconciliation in Somalia. Eritrea has denied the accusations.
(Reporting by Michell Nichols at the United Nations; editing by Grant McCool)