[dehai-news] (SCR) March 2009 Djibouti/Eritrea - Expected Security Council Action

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From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (eritrea.lave@comhem.se)
Date: Mon Mar 02 2009 - 18:44:49 EST

March 2009

Expected Council Action

The Council is expecting a report from the Secretary-General (due 25
February) on the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea. Eritrea
did not comply with the Council's demand in resolution 1862 that it
withdraw its forces from the disputed area by 18 February and engage in
dialogue. It seems likely that the Council will take up the issue again
in March.
top . full forecast
Key Recent Developments

On 11 September the Council received the report from the fact-finding
mission dispatched to the region in response to Eritrea's refusal to
withdraw its troops as requested by the Council's presidential statement
of 12 June. (For more background information, please see our Update
Report on Djibouti/Eritrea of 23 June 2008.) The mission was refused
entry into Eritrea and visited only Ethiopia and Djibouti. As a result,
it was unable to give a full account of the situation. Eritrea also
rejected similar missions proposed by the Arab League and the AU, as
well as other proposals for dialogue. The mission reported that
Eritrea, unlike Djibouti, had not withdrawn its troops from the
contested area. It recommended that the Secretary-General use his good
offices to establish a dialogue between the two countries.
On 23 October the Council held an open meeting to hear a statement by
Djibouti's President, Ismail Omar Guelleh, who called on the Council to
take urgent and effective action. In response, Eritrea denied taking any
land from Djibouti, called the conflict "a manufactured problem", and
pointed instead to Ethiopia's occupation of Eritrean territories.
Eritrea continued to reject any attempts at solving the conflict and
sent several letters to the Council denying the existence of any dispute
with Djibouti. On 24 October an Eritrean letter accused the US of
orchestrating the Djibouti/Eritrea conflict as a "diversionary scheme".
A 4 November letter appealed to the Council to address Ethiopia's
occupation of Eritrean territories. On 10 November, Eritrean President
Isaias Afwerki criticised the Council for considering action against
Eritrea but declining to take the same steps against Ethiopia. He
accused the Council of double standards. Djibouti refuted Eritrea's
version in a letter on 4 December.
On 14 January, resolution 1862 demanded that Eritrea withdraw its forces
to the positions of the status quo ante no later than five weeks from
the date of the resolution. It called on Eritrea to acknowledge the
border dispute and engage in dialogue with Djibouti. The Council also
decided to review the situation based on a report by the
Eritrea immediately rejected the Council's demand. In a statement from
its foreign ministry on 15 January, it called the resolution
ill-considered and unbalanced and repeated that it had not occupied any
land belonging to Djibouti. President Guelleh on 24 January said in an
interview that Djibouti would not be pushed into war with Eritrea and
would pursue all legal means to solve the conflict.
top . full forecast
Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is how to persuade Eritrea to withdraw its
forces and engage in a dialogue with Djibouti to solve the conflict
peacefully. Based on Eritrea's actions and statements so far, it seems
unlikely that it will respond to any ratcheting up of Council demands.
 A related issue is whether a change in approach might lead to a more
flexible Eritrean attitude. Council members will be reluctant to give
the appearance of rewarding intransigence. However, the issue is also to
some extent seen as complicated because the former US administration
under George W. Bush, was seen as a strong ally of Ethiopia and did not
allow the Council to pressure it for its intransigence on border issues
with Eritrea.
 Another issue is whether to see the problems as compartmentalised or as
part of a wider regional dimension. Eritrea seems intent on using the
Djibouti crisis as leverage to get the Council to address the unresolved
issue of Ethiopian behaviour.
 A further issue is how and when to engage regional organisations more
effectively on the problem. There were preliminary reports that Libyan
leader Muammar Gaddafi, who on 2 February became chair of the AU, had
offered to mediate between Ethiopia and Eritrea on the border dispute.
A final issue, if efforts to open a dialogue on reasonable terms prove
impossible, is whether stronger measures, such as sanctions, would be
considered. A related issue is the Council's credibility if, as happened
in Somalia for over a decade, sanctions were easily circumvented. By
contrast, doing nothing also raises the credibility issue.

Options for the Council include:
requesting the Secretary-General to continue his good offices efforts,
thus buying some more time;
deciding to adopt a more regional approach by signaling willingness to
address all other relevant issues and create space for private
discussions to explore possible modalities; and
deciding to adopt targeted sanctions on Eritrea subject to a new
deadline if it continues to reject the Council's demands.

Council Dynamics

There is agreement in the Council that Djibouti is the aggrieved party
and that Eritrea must withdraw from the contested area and engage in
dialogue. There seems to be little sympathy for Eritrea's position. Its
previous actions that led to withdrawal of the UN Mission in Ethiopia
and Eritrea are raised by some members as examples of related
irresponsible behaviour. Many Council members recognise Eritrea's
legitimate concerns over the unresolved Ethiopia/Eritrea border issue,
and that a long-term solution may require a comprehensive approach, but
are unwilling to be seen to be rewarding aggressive action.
At press time, Council members were waiting to see what the
Secretary-General's report would conclude and also how the policy of the
new US administration would unfold. France, as the lead country, may
want to propose action in March. Libya is another key player with its
new AU chairmanship and it will also have the presidency of the Council
in March.
The possibility of sanctions has apparently been raised informally. Most
seem to favour a cautious approach that would avoid imposing sanctions
at this stage. At the same time there is awareness that the Council
needs some strategy in response to Eritrea's refusal to comply with the
demands in resolution 1862 to avoid losing credibility.

UN Documents


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