On 12 September, Tibor Nagy, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, welcomed the recent rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia that brought to an end to two decades of hostilities, but voiced concerns that Eritrea’s human right records would remain a hindrance to cooperation with Washington.
“Eritrea cannot assume that by saying wonderful things and opening good relations with the neighbours that will automatically lead to sanctions relief” said Nagy, referring to Eritrea’s calls for the lifting of sanctions imposed by the UN in 2009, which included an arms embargo, travel restrictions and asset freezes for some of the country’s top officials. The measures were backed by 13 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council.
Nagy, a former US ambassador to Ethiopia, raised concerns over the detention of US embassy local staff and several Americans for what he called politically-motivated reasons. He asked for a full explanation from Eritrea over past weapons purchases from North Korea detailed in a U.N. report (p39), and highlighted Eritrea’s continued practices of jailing religious and political prisoners and indefinite, obligatory national service.
While Nagy welcomed the peaceful developments taking place in Eritrea, he stated that: “There have to be concrete actions taken and we will remain very engaged and say things that may not always be popular but have to be said.”