Council members concern: Lifting of sanctions while Eritrea not fully cooperating with the SEMG sends negative signal to the behaviour of other countries under UN sanctions
Today, the Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution on Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions. It is not clear if every issue has been addressed to the satisfaction of all Council members; as a result, it is possible that there will not be a unanimous adoption.
The UK, as penholder, sent the first draft of the resolution to Council members on 31 October. The text was drafted in close consultation with the governments of Somalia and Eritrea.
Council members met twice to negotiate the text, on 2 and 4 November, and they again discussed issues raised in the draft on 8 November during consultations on the final reports of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG). The draft was put into blue yesterday (9 November), following two silence periods.
The draft in blue addresses each of the relevant time-limited sanctions measures regarding Somalia and Eritrea, while also reaffirming sanctions measures that are not time-limited and thus do not need renewal.
Concerning the SEMG, the draft resolution extends its mandate until 15 December 2017 and expresses its intention to review the mandate and take appropriate action regarding the further extension by no later than 15 November 2017.
The SEMG reported that it had not found any evidence that the government of Eritrea is supporting Al-Shabaab during the course of its current and two previous mandates and as such recommended that the Council consider the disassociation of Eritrea and Somalia sanctions, either by establishing a separate committee and monitoring group on Eritrea; establishing a separate committee on Eritrea, with the Monitoring Group as currently configured supporting both committees; or establishing a distinct monitoring group on Eritrea reporting to the current Committee.
However, the draft resolution does not take up the recommendation to disassociate the regimes. It appears that even countries that have in the past urged the Council to revisit Eritrea sanctions, due to the lack of evidence that it supports Al-Shabaab, did not push for the disassociation of the regimes.
While the main aspects of the text concerning Somalia were uncontroversial and largely agreed upon following the first two rounds of negotiations, finding consensus on several issues concerning Eritrea proved more difficult.
The initial draft resolution called on Eritrea to cooperate fully with the SEMG, “including on public finance issues, in accordance with the SEMG’s mandate”. After some Council members questioned the reason for the reference to public finances, a subsequent draft elaborated on the call to cooperate with the SEMG “including on public finance issues in order to facilitate investigations by the SEMG into the potential generation and use of revenues in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions”.
It appears that Angola and Egypt found this language to be too general and intrusive; along with China and Russia, they opposed any reference to public finances. As a compromise, the text in blue calls on Eritrea “to cooperate fully with the SEMG in accordance with the SEMG’s mandate”, without any reference to public finances.
Perhaps the most difficult issue was regarding a review of the sanctions on Eritrea. China proposed language requesting the SEMG to present a report within 120 days to the Committee on recommendations for lifting sanctions measures imposed on Eritrea, including benchmarks and a timeframe for lifting the sanctions.
However, the proposal was not accepted by the penholder [UK] in the draft placed under silence on 8 November. Angola, China, Egypt, Russia and Venezuela all broke silence when this proposal was not incorporated into the draft.
As a compromise, text was incorporated in the draft in blue expressing the Council’s “intention to review measures on Eritrea in light of the upcoming midterm update by the SEMG due by 30 April 2017, and taking into account relevant Security Council resolutions.”
Some members believe that this compromise has the benefit of not prejudging the review of the sanctions on Eritrea, which in their view is the case with the Chinese proposal. However, it is unclear whether this formulation is sufficient to satisfy all members, as it does not call for a specific report with benchmarks and a timeframe for lifting the sanctions.
Another controversial matter was how to refer to the SEMG’s findings concerning Eritrea and Al-Shabaab. The UK included a preambular paragraph in one of its earlier drafts taking note of the fact that the SEMG has not found any evidence that the government is supporting Al-Shabaab.
Russia maintained that this text should be included in the operative part of the resolution, a proposal supported by China. At one point, the penholder [UK] moved the text from the preambular to the operative part of the resolution; ultimately, however, it moved it back to the preambular part in the final draft. This may have been done by the penholder because it had compromised on the Chinese proposal regarding sanctions on Eritrea.
There are different views on how to interpret the SEMG’s findings that evidence has not been found linking Eritrea to Al-Shabaab. Some members appear to believe that this is evidence of good behaviour by Eritrea. However, other members, including the UK and the US, are especially concerned by the fact that the Eritrean government does not permit the SEMG to visit the country, an issue raised during the 8 November consultations as a factor limiting the SEMG’s work on Eritrea.
There is a broader concern among some members that Eritrea’s lack of cooperation with the SEMG sends a negative signal that could affect the behaviour of other member states subject to UN sanctions.