Ambassador Tekeda Alemu’s comments, arguing that former Ambassador Herman J. Cohen’s piece is mistaken, aims to diminish the possibility of normalization. Although normalization of relations is in the long-term benefit of both Eritrea and Ethiopia, the short term gain to Ethiopia drives current policy. Amb. Tekeda, in arguing that Eritrea is the intransigent actor, makes assertions meant to diminish the credibility of former Amb. Cohen’s piece.
Ambassador Tekeda fails to substantiate his argument that “all available intelligence indicates that Eritrea has not had any contact [with a Somali insurgent group] since 2009.”1 Although this may be to protect confidential information, it is more likely to be to limit discussion of the fact that the last time foreign intelligence believes Eritrea had contact with these groups was in the same year that Ethiopian troops withdrew from that theater. It is critical to keep in mind that Eritrea, on the contrary, has been consistently denying any association with such elements in Somalia. (This is noted by former Amb. Cohen)
This is an important fact because since Ethiopia refused to withdraw from occupied Eritrean territories, international observers have argued that Somalia was used as a proxy. This theory adds to the argument that the conclusion of the Eritrea-Ethiopia border decision will add to regional peace.
Amb. Tekeda also argues that normalization of relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia is in Eritrea’s court. This assertion, like others in his comment is unsubstantiated. Eritrea has been very clear that Ethiopia need only comply with it’s treaty obligations to set the stage for re-normalization:
“I have been instructed by your brother, President Isaias Afwerki to assure you that if Ethiopia withdraws its army from occupied sovereign Eritrean territory including the town of Badme in the morning, dialogue between the two countries will start in the afternoon. We have no other issue with the Ethiopian Government except the military occupation of our sovereign territory.”2
It is clear that the ball is in fact, contrary to the assertion by Amb. Tekeda, squarely in Ethiopia’s court. It may continue to be in violation of international law and treaty obligations while Eritrea awaits its neighbor patiently at the table or Ethiopia can finally move the process forward by withdrawing from occupied territories.
Finally, Amb. Tekeda misrepresents what the purpose of the United Nations sanctions regime on Eritrea was meant to do. The sanctions regime (identified through a reading of UNSC Resolutions 19073 and 20234 ) was meant to restrict Eritrea’s connection to non-UN sponsored actors in Somalia and to promote a UN based (as opposed to an independent, bilateral or multilateral) process in the Doumera Island conflict.
Amb. Tekeda argues that the sanctions regime has not changed Eritrea’s foreign policy, however, as described above Eritrea’s policies on Somalia have remained consistently in tune with the UN’s purposes, although unrecognized until now. (Eritrea has consistently promoted the development of a Somali solution to the Somali crisis) Eritrea’s engagement in moving forward in a multilateral process on the Doumera Island conflict with Djibouti and Qatar as partners predated the sanctions regime. Amb. Tekeda’s comment is therefore mistaken, and possibly misleading.
Amb. Tekeda however does bring an important point.A UN Sanctions regime is supposed to serve a purpose. If the sanctions regime that was implemented has had its objectives met (most Eritreans, if not observers of Eritrean policy would argue in spite of the sanctions regime) they ought to removed.
Additionally, if this policy is judged effective in resolving state-to-state problems in the Horn of Africa, the next state-to-state policy problem that could be resolved through such a process is the vexing problem of the Ethiopian occupation of Eritrea. A similar sanctions regime could be implemented on Ethiopia until it complies with its treaty obligations as defined by the Algiers Agreement (2000) that it signed with Eritrea and is guaranteed by the United Nations Security Council.5
A possible sanctions regime on Ethiopia is likely the primary reason that the Permanent Representative to the United Nations from Ethiopia, Amb. Tekeda Alemu, has written such a negative response to a very reasoned, rational and responsible call from former Ambassador Herman J. Cohen.