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Eritrea sanctions lifted after nine years

The UN Security Council has unanimously agreed to lift sanctions against Eritrea after nine years.

Ethiopia's Abiy Ahmed (left) and Eritrea's Isaias Afwerki (right) have ended travel restrictions between the two countries
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed (left) and Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki (right) have ended travel restrictions between the two countries

An arms embargo, asset freeze, and travel ban were imposed in 2009 amid claims Eritrea supported al-Shabab militants in Somalia.

The resolution, drafted by the UK, was backed by the US and its Western allies.

The UN vote comes amid a thaw in relations between Eritrea and its neighbours following years of conflict.

Eritrea agreed a peace deal with Ethiopia in June, while the leader of Eritrea and the UN-backed government in Somalia have also met three times this year.

Why were sanctions imposed?

The resolution, backed by 13 votes in favour, was passed after the UN Security Council accused Eritrea of arming, training and equipping armed groups including al-Shabab.

The UN had frequently expressed concern about the flow of weapons into Somalia, where Islamist militants were battling government forces for control of the capital Mogadishu.

Eritrea has also been criticised for human rights abuses and mandatory national service conscription, which has led to tens of thousands of young Eritreans fleeing the country for Europe.

The asset freezes and travel ban affected individuals and businesses, as well as the Eritrean leadership.

However, the AFP news agency says that the UN monitors had said they had “not found conclusive evidence that Eritrea supports Al-Shabaab”.

Eritrea has faced accusations of arming and training al-Shabab militants
Eritrea has faced accusations of arming and training al-Shabab militants

What does Eritrea say?

The Eritrean government has always denied supporting al-Shabab militants, calling the claim a “fabrication” created by US intelligence officials. Ethiopia is a close ally of the US, especially in the fight against al-Shabab.

When they were imposed, Araya Desta, Eritrea’s ambassador to the UN, dismissed the sanctions as “ludicrous punitive measures”.

Eritrea occupies a strategic location on the Red Sea, which connects Europe, Africa and the East. However, its economy has suffered after years of sanctions.

The Eritrean government now says it wants compensation for the sanctions, which it insists were politically motivated. BBC