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)

Iran to UN: Saudi Arabia Must Prosecute Drunk Driving Diplomat Who Killed Tehran Man

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Oct. 13, 2014 – Iran’s government has told Ban Ki-moon that it expects Saudi authorities to prosecute a diplomat who it says killed an Iranian civilian while driving drunk in Tehran last year.

The information was in a report released by the United Nations on Monday on measures taken by UN member states to protect diplomats and diplomatic premises.

In the report, Iran’s mission to the UN says the diplomat, Yasser bin Mohammed Al-Qarni, was involved in previous cases of driving while intoxicated and that the Saudi government was informed of these incidents but “had failed to properly address the serious offenses committed by its staff.”

With regard to the incident in which Iran says one of its citizens was killed, Iran’s submission states that: “Based on the report provided by the Tehran Traffic Police, at 5.30 a.m. on 14 March 2013, Mr. Al-Qarni exceeded the speed limit, considerably endangering the lives of other motorists and pedestrians and causing the car to swerve out of control, killing an Iranian civilian and seriously injuring two others, including a police officer.”

“The cause of the accident was proved to be high speed and reckless driving of the motorist while under the influence of alcohol, which constitutes a serious crime under Iranian national laws.”

Drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited in both Saudi Arabia, where its consumption is punishable by public flogging, and Iran, where two people were sentenced to death for their third alcohol offense in 2012.

In a July report, Saudi Arabia lodged a complaint with the UN that Al-Qarni had his diplomatic rights violated after a “motor vehicle accident.” The Saudi complaint said Al-Qarni was “subjected to medical tests,” had his passport confiscated and was banned from leaving the country. After “vigorous attempts” by the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, Al Qarni was allowed leave Iran two months after the incident.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly denied that Al-Qarni was driving drunk.

Ban Ki-moon is required to issue a report on measures taken by member states to protects diplomats and diplomatic premises following a December 2012 General Assembly resolution.

The resolution was passed in response to a 2011 plot which resulted in a Texas-based Iranian-American being found guilty of involvement in a plan to hire a Mexican drug cartel to bomb a Washington DC restaurant in order to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

538 MERS Cases in 18 Countries

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May 12, 2014 – Lebanon has recorded its first case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) as the US Center for Disease Control announced on Monday that it is investigating a second case in Florida.

The amount of new infections has more than doubled in the past month with the majority of new cases in Saudi Arabia where 290 new infections have been diagnosed since late March.

MERS can cause severe respiratory illness and has a fatality rate of about 30 percent.

It originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Yemen in the Middle East; Egypt and Tunisia in Africa; France, Germany, Greece, Italy and the UK in Europe; Malaysia and the Philippines in Asia; and the United States in North America.

All cases outside of the Middle East are among individuals who recently travelled to the region. Camels are suspected as the primary source of infection for humans with the World Health Organization reporting that the case from Yemen had no recent history of travel outside of Yemen, but had made weekly visits to a camel farm where he reported drinking fresh camel milk.

The majority of cases are in men, 65 percent, and the median age for infection is 49.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

First Timers Chad, Georgia, Lithuania and Saudi Arabia Among Those Vying for UNSC Seats in 2014-15

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The new Security Council members will deliberate in the newly renovated council chamber which re-opened this month. (photo: courtesy of Norway/UN)

April 10, 2013 – Six countries have declared their candidacy for the five vacancies up for grabs in October’s election for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council.

So far, Chad, Chile, Georgia, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are running for election to the Council for 2014-15, though it’s looking more like an election process than race at this stage. 

Among the six, Georgia and Lithuania are the only two running in a competitive race. One of them will replace Azerbaijan who currently occupy the Eastern Europe seat, but whose term ends Dec. 31, 2013. Neither Tbilisi nor Vilnius has served on the Council, and Lithuania, if successful, would be the first Baltic country elected to the 15-nation body.

Chile, whose likely next president, Michele Bachelet, recently stepped down as head of U.N. Women, last served on the Council in 2003-04 and was one of the the so-called ‘Middle Six’ delegations whose vote was fought over by those for and against the invasion of Iraq. 

The Latin America group at the UN typically presents a “clean slate” for candidates meaning each candidate runs unopposed so Santiago is virtually guaranteed to replace Guatemala.

Nigeria and Chad are running for the two African seats to replace Morocco and Togo. Nigeria has served four times on the Council, most recently in 2010-11 while Chad has never. Unless other candidates are announced in the interim both are assured of a two-year term.

Saudi Arabia, one of the 51 founding members of the U.N. in 1945, has also never served on the Council. It looks set to replace Pakistan for the Asia-Pacific group Arab swing seat – the African and Asian groups take turns every two years to nominate an Arab country: Morocco was elected from the African group for 2011-13 so it is now Asia’s turn to nominate an Arab state.

- Denis Fitzgerald

Amnesty: 21 Countries Used the Death Penalty Last Year

April 9, 2013 - China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States were the world’s top executioners last year, according to Amnesty International’s annual review of the use of the death penalty.

The organization recorded 682 executions in 21 countries in 2012, virtually unchanged from 2011, when it recorded 680 executions in 21 countries. The figures do not include the estimated thousands of executions carried out in China, which does not publicly release information on its use of the death penalty.

A U.N. push to end the death penalty seems to be gaining traction with no executions recorded in 174 of the U.N.’s 193 member states (the two U.N. non-member states that carried out executions last year were Palestine and Taiwan). 

A General Assembly vote in November 2012 on putting a moratorium on the death penalty passed by a vote of 110 in favor, 39 against and 36 abstentions, a slight improvement from the same vote in 2010 and six more in favor than in a 2007 vote. A diplomat involved with the text said the aim is now to encourage states that have declared a moratorium to abolish executions, citing strong progress in Africa on ending the death penalty.

The U.S. is the only country in the Americas to still use the death penalty, carrying out 43 executions last year, the same as in 2011, but in only nine states, compared to 13 in 2011. There are 3,170 people still on death row in the U.S., according to Amnesty.

Belarus is the only country in Europe to still use the death penalty, carrying out at least three executions last year.

At least 557 executions were carried out in Middle East countries last year. Iran put 314 people to death in 2012; Iraq, 129; and Saudi Arabia, 79. Yemen, where a minimum of 28 people were executed last year, was the sixth biggest executioner in 2012. Those four countries accounted for 99 percent of all executions in the region last year.

Japan, seven executions last year, and the U.S. are the only G8 countries to still apply the death penalty. In Japan, as well as Belarus, prisoners were not informed of their forthcoming execution, nor were their families or lawyers, according to the Amnesty report.

Hanging remains the most commonly used method of execution followed by shooting. The U.S. and China both use lethal injection while Saudi Arabia still practices beheading, often in public.

The Amnesty report is here.

- Denis Fitzgerald