UN Report: UAE, Saudi Using Eritrean Land, Sea, Airspace and, Possibly, Eritrean Troops in Yemen Battle

Bab al-Mandab strait separates the Arabian Peninsula from the Horn of Africa and links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean

Bab-el-Mandab strait separates the Arabian Peninsula from the Horn of Africa and links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean (credit: UN SEMG)

Nov. 2, 2015 – The United Arab Emirates has leased a key Eritrean port for 30 years and along with its Gulf ally, Saudi Arabia, has established a military presence in Eritrea in return for monetary compensation and fuel supplies.

United Nations investigators have also received reports that 400 Eritrean troops are embedded with UAE forces battling Houthi rebels in Yemen. If confirmed, this would violate UN Security Council sanctions imposed against Eritrea.

The information is contained in the latest report of the UN Group of Experts monitoring sanctions against Somalia and Eritrea. They state that the military arrangement between the Gulf coalition and Eritrea was likely established in March or April this year.

The report, released late last week, says the Gulf alliance’s arrangement with Eritrea, which is located across the Red Sea from Yemen and at its narrowest point is just 29 kilometers from Yemen, came about after Djibouti rebuffed an approach by Saudi and UAE to use its soil in their military campaign against Houthi expansion in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman hosted Eritrea's President saias Afwerki on April 28, 2015 (credit: Saudi Press Agency)

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman hosted Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki on April 28, 2015 (credit: Saudi Press Agency)

As part of the arrangement, Eritrea has allowed the Gulf alliance to use the Hanish islands and has leased the Port of Assab to the UAE for 30 years. The Bab-el-Mandeb strait between Yemen and Eritrea is a key route for Gulf oil shipments with an estimated 3.8 million barrels passing through on tankers daily.

The group of experts write that “Eritrea’s making available to third countries its land, territorial waters and airspace to conduct military operations in another country does not in and of itself constitute a violation of resolution 1907 (2009)” but “any compensation diverted directly or indirectly towards activities that threaten peace and security in the region or for the benefit of the Eritrean military would constitute a violation of” the resolution.

“Moreover, if the credible claims received by the Monitoring Group that Eritrean soldiers are indeed participating in the war effort under the leadership of the Arab coalition were confirmed, it would constitute a clear violation of resolution 1907 (2009),” the report states.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are not the only Gulf countries with a military presence in Eritrea. Qatar has 200 troops located on the country’s border with Djibouti. Doha is involved in mediating disputes between the two countries.

For its part, the Government of Eritrea has called on the Security Council to lift the arms embargo against it saying Eritrea’s strategic location makes it a target for extremists.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related Stories:

A Ceasefire or Humanitarian Pause: What’s Happening in Yemen?

UN Yemen Appeal Only 15 percent Funded

Yemen’s Saleh Worth $60 Billion Says UN Sanctions Committee

Djibouti – The UN’s Forgotten Crisis

Related Documents:

Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, October 2015

UN Commission of Inquiry Report on the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea

Security Council Resolution 1907 (2009)

Late Djiboutian Envoy Roble Olhaye Remembered at General Assembly Tribute

Late Djiboutian Ambassador Roble Olhaye had served as his country's UN envoy since 1988.

Roble Olhaye had served as Djibouti’s UN envoy since 1988. (UN Photo)

July 28, 2015 – A special session of the General Assembly was held Monday to pay tribute to Djibouti’s former UN ambassador, Roble Olhaye, who passed away last week in New York. He was 71.

Olhaye took up his UN post in 1988 and was also his country’s ambassador to DC and non-resident ambassador to Canada. He served as president of the Security Council in February 1994.

“At this time of mourning, we may take some measure of comfort from knowing that he left a lasting legacy based on nearly 30 years of engagement with the United Nations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at Monday’s General Assembly tribute. “He was fondly referred to as the ‘eternal representative’ among permanent representatives.  He had great wisdom.  We considered him a leading ‘dictionary’ since he knew so much.”

Olhaye presents his credentials to then secretary-general avier Pérez de Cuéllar in 1988.

Olhaye presents his credentials to then secretary-general Javier Pérez de Cuéllar in 1988. (UN Photo)

Also speaking at Monday’s tribute was US Ambassador Samantha Power. She recalled asking her predecessor, Susan Rice, for advice on who to call on when she arrived at the UN.

“Go see the Djiboutian Ambassador,” Rice told her. “He knows everyone, and he knows everything.”

“There was no geopolitical conversation with Roble that didn’t begin with a discussion of our families, and our love of our kids,” Power told delegates. “That is one quality that made him such a tireless diplomat: he never lost sight of the individuals and families who were – and still are – affected by all of the debates we have here.”

At the time of his death Olhaye was the longest serving ambassador to the United States and held the honorary title Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.

He is survived by his wife and five children.

Djibouti – The UN’s Forgotten Crisis

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Oct 6, 2013 – Despite hosting a US military base and a French naval base, Djibouti’s humanitarian crisis is largely ignored by the international community.

The UN appealed for $70 million at the beginning of the year to address widespread malnutrition in the drought-stricken country but so far has only received $18 million, making it the most underfunded humanitarian appeal, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The US, which operates its surveillance and armed drone programs for nearby Yemen and neighboring Somalia out of Djibouti, has contributed a mere $152,000 to the UN appeal, while France, which lost its rule over the country in 1977, has not made any contribution, UN figures show.

Djibouti ranks near the bottom of the Human Development Index and about one-third of the country’s children are malnourished while the practice of female genital mutilation is commonly carried out on girls between the ages of 2 and 5, according to UNICEF

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Photo: A US Predator drone flying at sunset – Charles McCain/Flickr.