Ambassador Rice: The United States is pleased with the adoption today of Resolution 2023, imposing additional sanctions on Eritrea for its failure to comply with its obligations under previous Security Council resolutions, including 1907, passed two years ago this month.
This resolution underscores the international community’s condemnation of Eritrea’s destabilizing behavior in the Horn and its support for terrorism. It strengthens the provisions of 1907 and imposes additional obligations on Eritrea and limits its ability to continue to use the mining sector and the diaspora tax to fund its illicit activities.
We think this is an important step that is a good affirmation of the unity of the international community in response to the pleas that we heard from the leadership of the IGAD states this morning, who were unanimous in underscoring their concern about the threat posed by Eritrea and their call upon the Council for stronger sanctions.
I want to congratulate Gabon and Nigeria for their leadership in sponsoring and shepherding the resolution, and I’m happy to take a couple questions.
Reporter: Ambassador, you saw that the Foreign Minister of Eritrea [inaudible] letter to the Council, asking them that the act should be postponed until the President could come. I was just wondering, was there a need to rush this through?
Ambassador Rice: We do not think this resolution was rushed. Discussions began on the resolution back in October. There were negotiations throughout the month of November. On Wednesday, the Council decided to schedule a vote for today, Monday. We issued an invitation on Wednesday evening to the Eritrean President to address the Council Monday morning. On Thursday, we got a letter from Eritrea saying that they didn’t intend to come. On Friday, they applied for visas at our Embassy in Asmara. They applied for 13 visas on Friday morning. Ten were issued within a few short hours. The final three were issued before — or by 10:00 the next day. All the visas were issued in 24 hours, and President Isaias’s was issued just hours after it was applied for, which, I think as many of you know, is close to record speed.
We had been expecting that the Eritrean delegation would arrive. Our Embassy was awaiting details on their flight information so that we could process that as we normally do. It never came. And then we got another letter yesterday saying that for logistical reasons, unexplained, they weren’t coming.
They had ample time to be here, in person, or through other means, as the other IGAD delegations did. And we have no explanation for their not being here except that they, perhaps, didn’t like what was going to happen today.
Reporter: Ambassador, they also seemed to say — they said it sort of lacked due process, to have the resolution already in blue and going to be voted on. Sort of like, what was the point of talking if everything was already set up with no chance to go and check with capitals or to reconsider the resolution?
And I wanted to ask you one other thing about what Russia said. Russia said that there wasn’t sufficient proof provided of this alleged plot to attack the AU summit in Addis. Do you think there was sufficient proof in front of the Council on that matter?
Ambassador Rice: Let me address both those matters. First of all, you’ll recall that Eritrea requested to address the Council last summer. It sent its Foreign Minister and a senior presidential adviser. We spent a couple of hours with Eritrea and other IGAD delegations, hearing their viewpoints. This was soon after the Monitoring Group report was made available. They had an opportunity to address those allegations. We had a discussion and a very full exchange of views. So, there was not any absence of opportunity for the members of the Council to hear Eritrea’s point of view and that of other regional states to inform our deliberations.
The Eritreans had the opportunity to be here again today and make their case. They chose not to do so. The other IGAD states took that opportunity, I think, to good effect. With respect to the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group evidence regarding the plot — the thankfully foiled plot — and planned attack on the African Union Summit in January, the evidence provided by the Monitoring Group we know to be very compelling and we have every confidence in its full veracity.
The Ethiopian Government enabled every embassy in Addis Ababa that wished to come and view the evidence themselves. Some took the opportunity to do so; others didn’t. I don’t understand the basis for Russia’s claim that the evidence was not available or not compelling. From the United States’ point of view, we have every confidence in the veracity of that evidence. Thank you very much.