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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08ASMARA89
2008-02-21 13:35:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Asmara
Cable title:  

ERITREAN MFA ON UNMEE, COUNTER-TERRORISM, AND

Tags:   PREL  KPKO  PTER  ER 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO3721
RR RUEHROV
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R 211335Z FEB 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ASMARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9457
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEPADJ/CJTF-HOA J2X CAMP LEMONIER DJ
RUMICEA/JICCENT MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASMARA 000089 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2018
TAGS: PREL KPKO PTER ER
SUBJECT: ERITREAN MFA ON UNMEE, COUNTER-TERRORISM, AND
REGIONAL ISSUES

REF: ASMARA 86

Classified By: Ambassador Ronald K. McMullen for reason 1.4 (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: Fessehazion Petros, the second-ranking
official in Eritrea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with
the ambassador for ninety minutes February 21 and discussed
UNMEE, regional dynamics, counter-terrorism, Kosovo, and
bilateral issues. He reiterated a litany of perceived
slights to Eritrea's sovereignty at the hands of the United
Nations while professing that Eritrea wants to see more
cooperation and coordination on UNMEE and border issues with
the UN. He stated that Al-Shabaab is not part of the
Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia and that Eritrea
has long seen Al-Qaeda as a foe. End Summary.



2. (C) UNMEE: Eritrea shoots itself in the foot, again


--------------------------



--------------------------



The ambassador opened by calling on Eritrea to enable UNMEE
to carry out its mission, or if that were not possible, to at
least provide full cooperation for UNMEE's orderly and safe
relocation. He described Eritrea's behavior over the past
three weeks as the equivalent of a soccer "own-goal," as
Eritrea's actions had increased the outrage and frustration
of the UN and member states. He noted that some of the
government of Eritrea's rivals must be giddy over recent
developments. Fessehazion, drawing on Eritrea's letter of
February 20 to the UNSC president, linked the UNMEE situation
with the border issue and called for improved cooperation and
coordination leading to a positive resolution. The
ambassador said that the revocation of the visas of the UN's
Technical Assessment Mission did not indicate a willingness
to discuss and coordinate. Fessehazion reeled off a list of
historic and current perceived slights to Eritrea at the
hands of the UN, specifically mentioning UNMEE's plans to
withdraw from Sector West to Badme, numerous letters from
Isaias to the Secretary General or UNSC president that have
gone unanswered, and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's comments
about Eritrea while visiting Addis Ababa. The ambassador
said the deep concern about UNMEE's plight transcended the
Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict and could have implications for
other UN peacekeeping operations.

-- Meanwhile, UNMEE Force Commander General Taisir told Post
late February 21 that the regrouping movement to Asmara and
Assab was "going very well." The two trouble spots (reftel)
were the subject of a late-night discussion with Eritrean
officials and as of this morning both units were allowed to
move. General Taisir said there was another Eritrean-caused
delay near the Italian Fort in Sector Center, but he thought
this could be sorted out. He said he was "racing between
time and fuel" and hoped for some clarity from the Security

Council before the end of next week about the status of
UNMEE's mission.



3. (SBU) Sudan


--------------------------



Regarding the recent visit of Sudan's Salva Kiir to Eritrea,
Fessehazion said Eritrea strongly supported the full
implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. He said
relations between Eritrea and the Government of South Sudan
are strong and cooperative. On the issue of the eastern
Sudan peace accord, the ambassador noted that the United
States is planning to assist in training eastern Sudanese in
elementary administrative and conflict resolution skills to
help increase the capacity for peace and stability in eastern
Sudan. Fessehazion commented that Eritrea and the United
States have some common interests in these areas.



4. (C) Counter-terrorism


--------------------------



The ambassador said the United States government is moving to
name Al-Shabaab a Foreign Terrorist Organization, a legal
designation that carries substantial sanctions. Fessehazion
interjected that "Al-Shabaab is not part of the Alliance,"
(i.e., Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia). He said,
"We warned the United States about Osama bin Laden when he
was in Sudan in the 1990s. He and Al-Qaeda were planning
actions against Eritrea with the help of the Sudanese; that

ASMARA 00000089 002 OF 002


is why we broke relations with Sudan. We view Al-Qaeda as a
foe." He said that if the United States could demonstrate
that individuals in the region had links to Al-Qaeda, "we
will combat them." The ambassador said that given the UNMEE
crisis and current situation in Somalia, the timing did not
seem right for such cooperation, but that it was something to
keep in mind for the future, perhaps when there was more
stability in Somalia.



5. (SBU) Kosovo


--------------------------



Eritrea has not yet recognized Kosovo and has no official
policy on this issue, Fessehazion stated. He added, "If you
want my personal opinion, I am against it, as it could lead
to unilateral secessions elsewhere." (COMMENT: He did not
mention that Russia vies with China as Eritrea's main weapons
supplier. END COMMENT.)



6. (SBU) Bilateral Issues


--------------------------



Fessehazion said that during the January gathering of all
Eritrean ambassadors, President Isaias told them Eritrea
wants "constructive engagement with the United States." He
said the visits to Eritrea by Secretary Rumsfeld and Generals
Franks and Abizaid are remembered as the basis for potential
cooperation. In addition to commenting on Somalia and UNMEE,
the ambassador noted the restrictions still in place on the
U.S. (and other embassies) in Asmara and suggested another
meeting to discuss those important issues.



7. (C) COMMENT: Fessehazion, who has only recently become
the second-ranking MFA official, exhibited a diplomatic
quality rare in Eritrean officialdom: being disagreed with
and allowing the conversation to continue. He took the
ambassador's strong comments about Eritrea's treatment of
UNMEE without visible umbrage, although revealed little about
his government's near-term plans for UNMEE. The ambassador
will meet with the regime's political commissar, Yemane
Ghebreab, on February 25 to follow up on UNMEE and other
issues broached by Fessehazion.
MCMULLEN