UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Wednesday to lift sanctions against Eritrea following its thaw in relations with Ethiopia and other neighboring countries — but it kept an arms embargo on Somalia and a ban on trade in charcoal, a key source of funds for al-Shabab militants.
The resolution approved by the U.N.’s most powerful body commended “efforts toward peace, stability and reconciliation in the region” sparked by Ethiopia’s reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in April and accepted an international commission’s border decision that favored Eritrea.
Ethiopia is the regional power and actions by the country’s leader set off several diplomatic thaws, including one between Eritrea and Somalia. Leaders of Djibouti and Eritrea, which also had a turbulent relationship after multiple border clashes, met with the help of Ethiopia, though there has been no breakthrough.
Ahmed’s office said after the vote that the lifting of sanctions will have far-reaching effects in improving stability and building lasting peace and normal relations in the Horn of Africa region.
“It will further enhance the collaborative gains that have been achieved in the region over the past few months,” the Ethiopian prime minister’s office said.
Eritrea, a former Italian colony, gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war. It had a decades-long border dispute with Ethiopia, including a war from 1998-2000 in which about 80,000 people died.
The Security Council imposed an arms embargo and other tough sanctions on Eritrea in 2009 for supplying weapons to Somalia’s Islamic extremist al-Shabab rebels, who are opposed to the Somali government, and for refusing to resolve a border dispute with Djibouti, a key U.S. ally in the Horn of Africa.
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