Eritrean Foreign Minister Meets Ban Ki-moon

Eritrea meeting with UN chief

By Matthew Russell Lee (Inner City Press),

After Eritrea’s foreign minister Osman Saleh Mohammed met Monday with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, his Permanent Representative to the UN Araya Desta gave Inner City Press a read-out of the meeting.

Ambassador Desta said that Somalia was discussed, with Eritrea explaining its view that in Somalia there can be no military solution and all sides have to be represented, with the solution coming from Somalis and not from the outside. Eritrea is accused of, but denies, providing arms to Al Shabaab.

The United States is accused of using helicopter gunships and working with “black site” secret prisons in Mogadishu. 

Inner City Press, having last week interviewed Eritrean presidential adviser Yemane Ghebreab, attended the delegation’s photo op with Ban Ki-moon and his staff, noting there the presence of UN deputy humanitarian chief Catherine Bragg, who earlier on Monday briefed the Security Council about famine in Somalia.  

Was famine in Eritrea discussed?” Inner City Press asked. Desta said no, that while the Horn of Africa is suffering droughts Eritrea “had a good harvest last year” and stored food, and according to Desta has bought food and stored it as well.  Desta volunteered that there has been a dispute between Eritrea and UNICEF but that his delegation told Ban that the country wants to have good relations with the UN. An email to UNICEF spokespeople did not result in any substantive answer on this, but if one if provided later it will be published. 

Also seen entering Ban’s Eritrea meeting was a senior official of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to whom Inner City Press afterward asked, “So are there peacekeeping issues with Eritrea?” The response, with laughter, was that “there are always peacekeeping issues.” But the UNMEE mission between Eritrea and Ethiopia was dismantled years ago….

Along with Ban’s scheduler and his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, Department of Political Affairs chief Lynn Pascoe attended the Eritrea meeting. On the way in he joked, “You complained no one else was present, so I came.” There were a lot of UN officials there, perhaps as a follow up to Eritrea’s presidents request to Ban on July 8 for a longer meeting”. But what was really accomplished?

The UN Security Council’s committee is slated to consider a monitoring report and more sanctions on Eritrea. One purpose of the trip seems to have been to try to fend these off — with any success is not yet clear.