Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-Somali Foreign Minister Muhammad Abdullah Omar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the UNSC will discuss an application by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development [IGAD; the African organization consisting of Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Djibouti, Kenya, and special envoy of the UN secretary general]and the Peace and Security Council of the African Union that accuse Eritrea of intervention in the internal affairs of Somalia and supplying Somali opposition forces (who oppose the interim government of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad) with military, financial, and logistical support.
The Somali foreign minister, who arrived in Cairo on 14 June, coming from New York, told Asharq Al-Awsat in an exclusive interview from London by telephone that Eritrea is also fighting the AU peacekeeping force through its support to the rebels attacking Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
The following is the text of the Interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] I understand that you are moving internationally against Eritrea; does this have anything to do with your visit to the UNSC in New York?
[Omar] I have been to New York to meet the members of the UNSC, which we expect would take measures to punish Eritrea. The Somali Government is looking for action to restrain Eritrea, which is playing a harmful and negative role in the internal Somali conflict. The Eritrean Government is the only government in the world that refuses to recognize the Somali Government. Moreover, in a statement issued by the Eritrean foreign ministry, on 23 February, the Eritrean Government called on the Somali people and the world to bring the Somali Government down. They have since violated the Somali airspace and supplied the Islamic Party and the Shabab Movement with foreign combatants and millions of dollars in addition to weapons and ammunition. Since, Sheikh Hassan Tahir Uways, leader of the Islamic Party, returned from Asmara, the Eritrean capital, 400 have been killed and more than 100,000, including women and children, have fled their houses. Only Eritrea is playing this role and helping the Somali opposition. For all this, we are now calling on the UNSC to impose sanctions on Eritrea. We have made an official application for this purpose.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you submit a formal application to the Security Council?
[Omar] Yes we did, and we met all Council members.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] I mean to say, did you sign the application?
[Omar] What we did is that on 20 May, we went to IGAD demanding that they submit the application to the Security Council on our behalf, and that is what they did, and moreover, they issued a statement calling for sanctions. This was a courageous stand by the organization. The same application was also submitted to the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, which also called for sanctions on Eritrea. These decisions are available and have been published. We went to New York to submit these decisions to the UNSC. We have done all this, and we met all permanent members of the Security Council, including China, as well as nonpermanent members, including Libya, Uganda, and Burkina Faso.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What exactly did you say to the Security Council members?
[Omar] We said that Eritrea is in breach of the Security Council resolutions that prohibit the export of arms to Somalia, as well as the series of resolutions adopted by IGAD, the AU, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference — all of which call for the prohibition of exporting arms to Somalia and, moreover, call for support to the Somali Government. All of these regional organizations support our government and the Somali people.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] So you want to punish Eritrea because of your differences with them?
[Omar] You may be right in your interpretation, but let me make it clear that the issue is not confined to this matter. Eritrea is supporting the war against the African peacekeeping force.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you expect the Council to do?
[Omar] We expect the Security Council to impose sanctions on Eritrea.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you have a specific date?
[Omar] No, this was our first meeting with UNSC members, and they have listened sympathetically to our demands.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But so far no decision has been made by the Security Council.
[Omar] No, not yet. The Security Council is busy for the time being with the issues of North Korea and Georgia. If you look at UNSC resolutions against North Korea, you can see how strong it is; we are expecting a similar resolution against Eritrea.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] When do you expect this to happen?
[Omar] We are expecting it shortly, or as soon as possible.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are we talking of a week for instance?
[Omar] We expect that there will be a Security Council decision against Eritrea in the next few weeks to deter it from intervening in our internal affairs. Eritrea’s practices in support of the war in Somalia must stop immediately, in view of the human and material losses it has been causing.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Very well, you have been talking of repeated violations by Eritrea, but no one has provided any evidence.
[Omar] (Interrupting) I understand what you are saying. We are not accusing Eritrea without evidence. The airplane that carried Tahir Uways — the man most responsible for the war in Somalia, who leads the Islamic rebels, came from Asmara, the Eritrean capital, directly to Mogadishu, the Somali capital. We also have the text of the official communiqué issued by the Eritrean foreign ministry, which incited the Somali people to depose the legitimate Somali Government. Moreover, there are published statements made by Sheikh Uways in which he acknowledged the unlimited Eritrean support to the Somali opposition and his party in particular.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you have any news about the closure of Mogadishu’s port?
[Omar] The news about the port closure or the suspension of work is not true; there is a process going on to reorganize the work at the port.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you know about the presence of any Ethiopian forces in Somalia?
[Omar] The Ethiopians in the past spoke of small groups of military scouts, but that is different from sending in heavily equipped military forces and tanks. As a government, we did not ask Ethiopia to send any military forces to Somalia, and everyone knows that the Ethiopian forces have actually left Somalia in accordance with the UN peace agreement concluded under the auspices of the United Nations in Djibouti. If they come back, that will be a breach of the Djibouti peace agreement. There are no Ethiopian military forces in Somalia under whatever name. The presence of Ethiopian military forces is different from scouting operations of groups of four or five people under the current circumstances.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you intend to participate in the meetings of the Arab foreign ministers?
[Omar] No, I intend to go to Washington to meet the USAID officials, but I shall be in Cairo by the end of June or early July for talks with Egyptian officials and the Arab League, within the framework of continued consultations with Arab capitals regarding the situation in Somalia.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you intend to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?
[Omar] I am really looking forward to that but probably not this time. If the opportunity comes during my visit to Washington, then I will, but my visit will concentrate on the issue of US aid to our country.