More information about Eritrea is available on the Eritrea Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Eritrea in 1993, following its independence from Ethiopia. The United States was one of the first countries to recognize Eritrea’s independence. Tensions related to the ongoing government detention of political dissidents and prisoners of conscience, including religious minorities, the closure of the independent press, limits on civil liberties, violations of religious freedom, and reports of human rights abuses contributed to decades of strained U.S.-Eritrean relations. Rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia in July 2018 and Eritrea’s outreach to its regional neighbors bolstered prospects for regional peace and stability and improved conditions for better relations with the United States and other international partners. However, Eritrea’s destabilizing military intervention in Ethiopia in November 2020, which was marked by serious, documented human rights abuse, ended the near-term prospect of improving relations. In 2021 the United States imposed sanctions under Executive Order (E.O.) 13818 (which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act) and E.O. 14046 (“Imposing Sanctions on Certain Persons With Respect to the Humanitarian and Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia”) against Eritrean entities and individuals perpetuating the crisis in Ethiopia.
President Isaias Afewerki, who led the country’s struggle for independence and who heads the sole political party, has ruled the country since 1991. National elections have not taken place since 1991 and the constitution has not been implemented. Regionally, Eritrea has been party to border disputes with Ethiopia in 1998 and Djibouti in 2008, though in 2018 Ethiopia and Eritrea formally made peace. In November 2020 Eritrean forces entered northern Ethiopia in support of the Ethiopian government’s military campaign against Tigray regional authorities.
U.S. interests in Eritrea include preventing Eritrea from undermining regional stability, urging progress toward a democratic political culture, addressing human rights issues including religious freedom, and promoting economic reform and prosperity.
Despite the challenges in the bilateral relationship between the United States and the Eritrean government, the United States maintains an enduring desire to build relationships with the Eritrean people, including through cultural exchange and other programs.
U.S. Assistance to Eritrea
At the Eritrean government’s request, the United States does not provide bilateral assistance to Eritrea. The United States has no military-to-military cooperation with Eritrea.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The Eritrean Government and ruling party maintain strict control over the economy. The United States and Eritrea have relatively little bilateral trade, though the United States has a modest trade surplus with Eritrea. Eritrea is a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, which has a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States. In November 2021, the United States imposed financial sanctions on Eritrea’s ruling political party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, its affiliate companies the Hidri Trust and the Red Sea Trading Corporation, the Eritrean Defense Forces, and two senior Eritrean officials pursuant to E.O. 14046.
Eritrea’s Membership in International Organizations
Eritrea is a member of the African Union, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and has observer status in the Arab League. Eritrea was a founding member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but suspended its membership in 2007.
Eritrea and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List. Eritrea maintains an embassy in the United States at 1708 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-319-1991), and is represented by a Chargé d’Affaires and not an ambassador to the United States.
More information about Eritrea is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
CIA World Factbook Eritrea Page
History of U.S. Relations With Eritrea
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Country Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics