UNITED NATIONS — Britain called Thursday for U.N. sanctions against the tiny Red Sea nation of Eritrea for supplying weapons to opponents of the transitional government in nearby Somalia in violation of a U.N. arms embargo.
The United States, which warned in July that Eritrea could soon face sanctions unless it stops support for Somali extremists, said it was time for the international community to address the country’s destabilizing impact on Somalia and the region.
And Russia called on countries in the region not to allow mercenaries and arms into Somalia in violation of sanctions.
The comments at an open meeting of the U.N. Security Council indicated growing interest in punishing Eritrea, which has rejected accusations — including by the Security Council — that it supplied weapons to Islamist opponents of Somalia’s Western-backed transitional government.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said his government is concerned that the latest report by U.N. experts monitoring the arms embargo included evidence that Eritrea provided support to opponents of the Somali government.
“Leaders of the African Union have requested the Security Council to impose sanctions against Eritrea in response,” he said.
“The council will need to give serious consideration to the African Union’s requests over the coming weeks,” Sawers said, adding that Britain “stands ready to support such action.”
In July, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice renewed U.S. allegations that Eritrea is “arming, supporting and funding” extremists including al-Shabab, and could soon face sanctions unless it stops. The Islamist militia group was designated a terrorist group by Washington in 2008 and has been trying to topple the transitional government.
U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told the council Thursday that “al-Shabab and other extremist groups, fueled by outside actors, have caused numerous deaths and violated the rights of Somali citizens with impunity — including by assaulting, detaining, and illegally arresting civilians.”
“It is time for the international community to consider ways to address Eritrea’s destabilizing impact on Somalia and the region,” DiCarlo said.
Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Konstantin Dolgov said the Somali government needs support from the leaders of neighboring countries.
“We call upon the states of the region not to allow the flow of foreign mercenaries and arms into Somalia in violation of the relevant sanctions regime introduced by the Security Council,” he said. “We believe that there is a need to take additional steps to strengthen this regime.”
The council was meeting to discuss a report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which said the government has successfully rebuffed threats from extremist forces to overthrow it. But he said the government still faces many challenges, first and foremost dealing with widespread insecurity and a recent upsurge in attacks, assassinations and abductions.
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other, plunging the country into chaos and anarchy.
The fragile U.N.-backed government and an undermanned, poorly resourced African Union peacekeeping force have struggled to defend government buildings, the port and airport in the capital, Mogadishu — most recently rebuffing an offensive by Al-Shabab and the allied Islamic Party.
U.N. political chief B. Lynn Pascoe reported “slow but notable progress towards stability.”
But he said the humanitarian situation has “worsened dramatically” due to intensified fighting in Mogadishu, growing insecurity in much of central and southern Somalia, and deepening drought.
The result is that some 3.7 million people — 50 percent of Somalia’s population — need humanitarian aid, he said.
Pascoe cautioned peace and stability will take time and “national and external spoilers must be neutralized.”
“Targeted sanctions can be one effective way to deal with the spoilers,” he said.
Speaking last, Somalia’s U.N. Ambassador Elmi Ahmed Duale said: “We also wish … that the Security Council would apply and enforce sanctions against all spoilers, whether individuals, entities, or country, or countries.”
Source: AP, Oct 09, 2009