Eritrea’s government has a “continuous destabilization policy” and the international community should tighten sanctions, the leaders of Ethiopia and Djibouti said in a statement following a week of talks that ended on Feb. 9. They didn’t give further details on the accusations. The United Nations in 2009 imposed sanctions on Eritrea after allegations it supported insurgents in Somalia.
Eritrea’s Foreign Ministry said it was “appalled” by an “unwarranted and calumnious act of hostility.” Ethiopia’s “continued occupation of sovereign Eritrea territories” is “the singular and central cause of regional destabilization,” it said in a Thursday statement. There is “increasing awareness in the international community” that the UN sanctions are unjustified, the ministry said, without giving any details.
The UN Security Council in December 2009 voted to ban the travel and freeze the assets of selected Eritrean government and army leaders accused of being allied with al-Qaeda-linked militants attempting to topple the government in Somalia. The measure imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea and authorized inspection of cargo going to or from the country on the Red Sea.
The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea said in a report submitted to the Security Council in October that it had found no evidence of Eritrean support for al-Shabaab.
Eritrea, which gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after three decades of conflict, fought again with its southern neighbor in 1998-2000. That war left an estimated 70,000 people dead and Ethiopia in control of Badme, the disputed territory that triggered the conflict. A UN boundary commission ruled in 2002 that Badme belonged to Eritrea. Ethiopia has rejected that ruling and still occupies the town.
A territorial dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea led to several days of fighting in June 2008. Twelve Djiboutian and an undisclosed number of Eritrean soldiers were killed. Qatari forces were deployed in the disputed areas and the UN has urged a peaceful resolution.
“Djibouti’s unwarranted stance is also difficult to decipher,” Eritrea said in the Feb. 12 statement. The border dispute is “entrusted to the good offices of a mutually agreed third party,” it said. “Djibouti’s premature and hostile stance is hard to explain in terms of a pending, good-faith dispute.”
President Isaias Afwerki, a former rebel leader, has ruled Eritrea since independence. The country has no privately owned press and the government has arbitrarily detained thousands of people including opposition supporters and journalists over the past decade, according to Amnesty International, the London-based advocacy group.