•”Mutually face saving solutions”
•“Eritrean leadership fears Islamic militancy as much as any other country in the Horn of Africa region”
•“UN Security Council should terminate sanctions imposed in 2009 by UNSC resolution 1907”
•“Ethiopia offer to accept a symbolic initial takeover by Eritrea of territory awarded by the EEBC”
By Dimetros Birku
(Borkena) Herman Cohen, former assistant secretary of state for Africa, seem to be making a case for normalization of relations not just between Eritrea and Ethiopia but also between Eritrea and the international community.
In an article published on the African Argument, Cohen painted a roadmap that depicts as to how both objectives could be achieved.
Recounting the circumstances under which UNSC resolution 1907 was passed by the United Nations Security Council which apparently made Eritrea appear a pariah State, Cohen argues that the situation is no longer there and the “UN Security Council should terminate sanctions imposed in 2009 by UNSC resolution 1907.”
Susan Rice, then US Ambassador in the UN, proposed resolution to pass sanction against Eritrea on alleged grounds that Eritrea is helping Al-Shabab in Somalia.
Mr. Cohen argues that “as far as external support for Shabaab is concerned, all available intelligence indicates that Eritrea has not had any contact since 2009.” It was implied in his argument that Eritrea has no involvement in facilitation of funds for Al-Shabab after 2009.
“Those of us who know Eritrea well understand that the Eritrean leadership fears Islamic militancy as much as any other country in the Horn of Africa region,” Mr. Cohen added.
With regard to how the UN sanction could be ended, Mr. Cohen proposed that one of the European member of the Security Council to initiate a resolution at the UN Security Council to end sanction against Eritrea and for the US to be at least abstinent. The reason, for him, is that European countries had good relations with Eritrea
On Ethio-Eritrean relation
Recalling how the state of Eritrea was created and how the two nations slipped to war following what he referred to as “excellent relations” by EPLF and TPLF headed governments between 1993 and 1998, he seem to think that the two countries no longer need to be at loggerheads.
Cohen identified problems regarding “border dispute” and the problem with regard to implementing Eritrea and Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) ruling. For Cohen, the problem could be ended with “a mutually face-saving solution”: “Ethiopia offer to accept a symbolic initial takeover by Eritrea of territory awarded by the EEBC, followed by the same day opening of dialogue with a totally open agenda.” His argument for ending hostility between the two countries is mainly grounded on economic rationale and he thinks Ethiopia could benefit much from a continent port facility of Eritrea. Meanwhile, Addis Fortune reported that Djibouti issued ultimatum to the government of Ethiopia regarding cargo release on the port of Djibouti.
Mr. Herman Cohen also quoted President Isaias Afeworki as saying ‘Eritrea cannot fulfill its destiny without Ethiopia.”
It is to be recalled that Herman Cohen played crucial role as a sort of peace broker in the negotiation process which sort of laid the foundation for the legitimization of breaking up of Ethiopia into two states leading to the emergence of Eritrea as independent state. Is Mr. Cohen oblivious about the fact that Ethiopia was left land locked because of the political process to which he was a part in one way or another?
Over all the tone of Mr. Cohen’s argument is for Ethiopia and Eritrea to leave behind the hostility and foster economic co-operation. He portrayed Eritrea in a positive light to the international community and to Ethiopia as well.
Impossible to comment at this point if Mr. Cohen’s article is an informed and possibly a precursor to a formal negotiation process between the two countries which may mean a continuation of backdoor talk. If there is such a project and if it is a success, it is likely that it will have implications, probably negative, for the alleged power struggle within TPLF (between alleged pro-Eritrean elites that seem to have greater power and the other faction within TPLF). As well, it could have negative implications for Ethiopian rebel groups’ operation along Ethio-Eritrean border.