U.S. Charge d’Affairs to Natnael Berhane: Mazel Tov

Chief of Mission/Charge d’Affaires Louis Mazel
Louis Mazel, Chief of Mission/Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Asmara. Can he be is a breath of fresh air towards improving U.S.-Eritrea relation?

By Bereket Kidane,

Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Asmara, The Honorable Louis Mazel, recently congratulated Natnael Berhane on his third place finishes in Stages 6 and 7 at The Tour of Utah and for winning the Vivint Jersey for “Most Aggressive Rider” of the prestigious tour.

Mr. Mazel had written on the Embassy’s facebook page that he was rooting for Natnael to do well and that he had invited him to his house in Asmara for dinner along with some American cycling officials before he issued him a visa to the United States.

The Honorable Mr. Mazel had also attended the hero’s welcome rally at Bahti Meskerem Square for Daniel Teklehaimanot and Merhawi Kudus to express his “Mazel Tov” as it were.

Mazel Tov” is the Jewish word for Congratulations. This all may sound like diplomatic niceties but the Honorable Mr. Mazel sure is a breath of fresh air, especially when compared to his predecessors.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Eritrea, Ronald McMullen, had done much to foul-up relations between the two countries. All one has to do is read the Wikileaks cable to see what Ambassador McMullen was up to and how he spent his time in Asmara. It’s no wonder that a popular political joke in South America goes something like this: “Why has there never been a coup in Washington, DC?” The answer: “Because there is no US embassy there.”

All kiddings aside, we’ve all appreciated the letter Mr. Mazel wrote where he said lovely things about Eritrea and tried hard to explain why the U.S. maintains a travel restriction on Eritrea. Though we may disagree with the substance of his rationale, he appears to be a man of good will. Of course, good will by itself is not enough unless it is backed-up by concrete action, but sometimes good will can beget good will and wonderful things can happen.

It’s high time that US-Eritrean relations improve. Eritrean-Americans would like to see nothing more than improved relations between the U.S. and Eritrea. As the late Congressman from New Jersey, Donald Payne, used to frequently say, “US-Eritrean relations can and should improve.”

It’s natural to wonder whether the new tone coming from the US Embassy in Asmara portends a new era of improved relations between the two countries. In the aftermath of the Chinese-Djibouti security and defense agreements, which Washington vehemently protested against the pact, it may Soon be Beijing, not Washington, that has the strongest influence in Djibouti.

It would not be a surprise if the United States moved to improve relations with the other littoral countries on the Red Sea basin that lie along strategic chokepoints. Eritrea has also recently concluded security agreements on the Red Sea with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is hard to imagine it would have gone forth without the blessing of the United States. For many years, the US had tried to lobby neighboring Arab countries against doing business or investing in Eritrea.

In any case, for US-Eritrean relations to truly improve and go forward three things will need to happen:

(1) The US needs to remember its role as the guarantor of the Algiers Agreement and ensure that the blood-soaked international border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is demarcated. To date, as one of the guarantors of the Algiers Agreement, the United States has breached its duty to Eritrea.

(2) The illegal and unjust sanctions passed on fraudulent grounds in the Security Council need to be lifted. Former Assistant Secretary of State Herman Cohen and Ambassador David Shinn have argued as much.

(3) The modern day Salem Witch Hunt led by Sheila Keetharuth and Mike Smith needs to stop. The Kangaroo Court known as the United Nations reached a new low when it forged documents submitted by Eritrea and then turned around and accused Eritrea of forgery.

The Honorable Mr. Mazel sure is a breath of fresh air. He has made a good beginning in changing the tone between the two countries. One hopes that he will continue to work hard to improve US-Eritrean relations for the benefit of both countries.

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U.S. Embassy Asmara Congratulates Natnael Berhane on his spectacular showing in the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Cycling Race

The U.S. Embassy in Asmara congratulates Natnael Berhane on his strong finish to the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. Natnael finished in 3rd position in both Stages 6 and 7 over the weekend and finished 7th overall in this very competitive race. Natnael also won the Vivint Jersey for “Most Aggressive Rider” in the 7th Stage and mounted the podium to receive this award. Great job Natnael and we look forward to seeing you in future races in the USA!

Louis Mazel
Chief of Mission
U.S. Embassy Asmara