U.N. Security Council set to lift Eritrea sanctions on Wednesday

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations Security Council is set to vote on Wednesday to lift a nearly decade-old arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Eritrea, diplomats said, after the country’s rapprochement with Ethiopia and thawing of relations with Djibouti.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 15-member council completed negotiations on Monday and agreed on a British-drafted resolution to remove the sanctions, which were imposed in 2009 after U.N. experts accused Eritrea of supporting armed groups in Somalia. Eritrea has denied the accusations.

A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, China, Russia, Britain or France. Diplomats said Wednesday’s vote was likely to be unanimous.

The draft resolution, seen by Reuters, would immediately remove the arms embargo and targeted sanctions – a travel ban and asset freeze – imposed on Eritrea.

It also urges Eritrea and Djibouti to work toward normalizing ties and settling a decade-old border dispute. It asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report back to the council on progress by Feb. 15 and then every six months.

Eritrea and Djibouti agreed in September to work on reconciling. Deadly clashes broke out between the Horn of Africa countries in June 2008 after Djibouti accused Asmara of moving troops across the border.

It came after Ethiopia and Eritrea in July declared an end to their state of war and agreed to open embassies, develop ports and resume flights between the two countries after decades of hostilities.

The Security Council welcomed the renewed ties in a statement at the time, but it stopped short of pledging that it could review sanctions after the United States, China, Britain, France and Ivory Coast raised concerns about linking the development.

A November 2017 Security Council resolution said the peaceful settlement of the border dispute would be a factor in any review of sanctions on Eritrea. Both the United States and China have military bases in Djibouti.

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U.N. envoy says Libya should start process for elections in spring

TUNIS (Reuters) – Libya should start the process to hold an election in spring 2019 only after a national conference to discuss its conflict, the U.N. Libya envoy said on Thursday, officially burying a long obsolete idea to stage a vote next month.

Western powers and the United Nations had originally hoped to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 10 as a way out of Libya’s conflict raging sine the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

But violence and a deadlock between rival administrations had made that goal unrealistic although nobody had declared it officially dead or offered a new time frame.

Instead, the United Nations wants to focus on a national conference to give Libyans a forum to discuss their future and bridge divisions between armed groups, tribes, town and regions, Ghassan Salame told the U.N. Security Council.

“The National Conference is to be held in the first weeks of 2019. The subsequent electoral process should commence in the spring of 2019,” Salame said, without being more specific about whether he meant it was expected then or that it ought to happen then.

Saleme did not give a new date for elections or even mention the date of Dec. 10 agreed only verbally by rival Libyan players at a summit hosted by France in May.

Shelving the vote is the latest setback for Western powers that helped topple Gaddafi seven years ago before stepping back and seeing hopes for a democratic transition crumble.

Salame said the internationally recognized House of Representatives had deliberately failed to approve legislation to hold a vote.

“The House has failed to uphold its responsibilities,” he said. “It is now clear that the postponed sessions and contradictory public statements (by lawmakers) were simply intended to waste time. The body calling itself Libya’s sole legislature is largely sterile.”

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Too soon to send Rohingya back to Myanmar: U.N. rights envoy

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations’ human rights investigator on Myanmar urged Bangladesh on Tuesday to drop plans to start repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Rakhine state this month, warning they would face a “high risk of persecution”.

More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh from western Myanmar, U.N. agencies say, after Rohingya insurgent attacks on Myanmar security forces in August 2017 triggered a sweeping military crackdown.

The two countries agreed on Oct. 30 to begin the returns to Myanmar in mid-November. The U.N. refugee agency has already said that conditions in Rakhine state were “not yet conducive for returns”.

Yanghee Lee, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said in a statement that she had received credible information from the refugees in Cox’s Bazar that “they are in deep fear of their names being on the list to be repatriated, causing distress and anguish”.

She had not seen any evidence of the government of Myanmar creating an environment where the Rohingya can return to their place of origin and live in safety with their rights guaranteed.

It has “failed to provide guarantees they would not suffer the same persecution and horrific violence all over again,” Lee said.

The root causes of the crisis must first be dealt with, including the right to citizenship and freedom of movement, she said.

Myanmar does not consider the Rohingya a native ethnic group. Many in the Buddhist-majority country call the Rohingya “Bengalis”, suggesting they belong in Bangladesh.

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