|09ASMARA138||2009-04-29 12:24:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Asmara|
1. (C) NO FUEL, NO TRAVEL PERMITS
ICRC, which has a relatively large and active program in
Eritrea, has long been seen as unusually favored by the
Isaias regime, which dislikes NGOs and is contemptuous of UN
agencies. For no apparent reason, ICRC is now being
pressured and restricted by the authorities. Having not
received government of Eritrea permission to buy diesel fuel
for over a year, the ICRC started to import gasoline-powered
SUVs. One of these new vehicles has been confiscated over a
licensing spat. More ominously, ICRC international staff
have recently seen most of their requests for travel permits
denied by Eritrean authorities. Heretofore ICRC staff
enjoyed almost unfettered access to the countryside, but now
are finding it difficult to travel to project sites and
conduct visits and routine ICRC activities.
2. (C) NO MORE REPATRIATIONS
Due to Ethiopian administrative glitches and subsequent
Eritrean political pique, ICRC has had to halt its
repatriation program that has sent thousands of stranded
Ethiopian and Eritrean citizens back home across the border.
This ends perhaps the last cooperative activity between
Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Asmara-based ICRC director (please
protect) told the ambassador April 28 that due to a number of
Ethiopian-requested postponements of scheduled repatriations,
Eritrea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed ICRC last
month that the long-established program would be ended. The
ICRC director said Eritrea felt it was being jerked around by
Ethiopia, its pride was injured, and it therefore reacted by
terminating the successful program.
3. (C) WHY? "ETHIOPIA HAS NOT GIVEN BACK BADME"
The exasperated ICRC director was assured by senior Eritrean
authorities that "it's nothing personal." He was told ICRC
has done nothing wrong, it was only that, according to one
supposedly sympathetic official, "Ethiopia has not given back
Badme, so pressure on the international community will have
to be increased."