The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Eritrea on Wednesday because of aid that council members say the Horn of Africa country has given to Islamist insurgents in Somalia.
A resolution supported by 13 of the 15 council members slapped an embargo on arms imports and exports by Eritrea, as well as asset freezes and travel bans on individuals and firms to be designated by an existing sanctions committee. Those hit would include members of the country’s leadership, it said.
The US and other nations accuse Eritrea of supplying al Shabaab rebels with funds and arms as they fight to topple a fragile UN-backed transitional government in Somalia, a state that has been virtually lawless for 18 years. Eritrea has repeatedly denied the allegation.
Libya, which has no veto in the council, voted against the resolution, while veto-holder China abstained.
The resolution demanded that Eritrea “cease arming, training, and equipping armed groups and their members including al Shabaab, that aim to destabilize the region” and also resolve a border dispute with Djibouti.
It said “Eritrea’s actions undermining peace and reconciliation in Somalia as well as the dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea constitute a threat to peace and international security.”
It was the first time UN sanctions had been imposed on Eritrea, a partly Muslim, partly Christian state that won independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
The last country to suffer UN sanctions for the first time was Iran in December 2006.
Diplomats said Uganda, which has peacekeeping troops in Somalia that have been targeted by al Shabaab, drafted the resolution after the African Union (AU) called on the council in May to punish Eritrea over its role in Somalia.
But Eritrea charged that its true author was the US.
Eritrean UN Ambassador Araya Desta described the resolution as “shameful” and told reporters it was based “on fabricated lies, mainly concocted by the Ethiopian regime and the US administration.”
Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 with tacit US backing to rout an Islamic courts movement from Mogadishu. It withdrew its troops earlier this year.
“We have never supported any insurgents or any opposition in Somalia,” Desta said. “We don’t want to take sides in Somalia. Somalis are our brothers.”
Libya opposed sanctions against any African country and believed the issue should have been postponed until after an AU summit next month, he said.
Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui (張業遂) said sanctions “should not replace diplomatic efforts to resolve disputes through dialogue and negotiations.”
But British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said Eritrea had merited sanctions for violating a UN arms ban on Somalia.
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