By Bereket Kidane,
FORMER Assistant Secretary of State, Herman Cohen, wrote an op-ed piece a few months back suggesting that since there is no evidence tying Eritrea to Alshabab in Somalia, the Europeans should sponsor a resolution to lift the sanctions on Eritrea while the United States abstains from voting. That sentiment was echoed by former Ambassador David Shinn in another op-ed piece.
Italy is now the current European Union’s Chair for the next six months. As per Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli’’s comments yesterday while on his current visit to Eritrea, Italy wants to start over and see an improved relationship with Eritrea. There is no better opportunity for Italy and Mr. Pistelli to put their money where their mouth is than by showing some real leadership on the sanctions issue and sponsoring a resolution to lift the illegal and unjust sanctions that were passed on fraudulent grounds.
If Italy, the former colonial power in Eritrea, truly wants to jump start its relationship with Eritrea and work on issues of mutual concerns in regional peace and stability, there is no better place to start than by using its current chairmanship and bringing along its European partners on lifting the sanctions. Although it is possible that Susan Rice will interfere with a phone call and screw it all up, Italy should find it easier to work with the current Permanent US Representative, Samantha Power, who doesn’t have Susan Rice’s baggage and is reportedly not passionate about keeping the sanctions on Eritrea.
Italy has its own self interest in trying to do this. Since the fall of Muamar Qaddafi, who was seen as a “dictator” by the West, Italy has been swamped by African boat migrants crossing the Mediterranean through Libya. Italy is paying for the absolute breakdown in security and complete lawlessness that has engulfed post-Qaddafi Libya and allowed human smuggling to flourish in that country. Many of those African boat migrants, particularly those who hail from the Horn countries, claim to be from Eritrea even though they have never set foot in Eritrea because they know it easier to get political asylum as an Eritrean.
If Italy is to stem the continuous flow of boat migrants on to its shores, it has to work to improve conditions in the Horn of Africa that are leading to the migration.
At the heart of the Horn’s instability is the Ethio-Eritrean relationship and Ethiopia’s continued illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territory and its refusal to abide by the Hague decision combined with the illegal and reverse-logic sanctions that have been passed on fraudulent grounds to try to punish Eritrea.
Italy can use its current chairmanship of the European Union to show some leadership on this issue.