The region clearly demanded a peacekeeping presence, said Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea.
Outlining that panel's efforts over the last four months, he said the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group had found no links between Al-Shabaab and Eritrea. It had also investigated the origin and destination of a cache of 25,000 firearms in Somalia.
Chief among the Group's concerns were illegal fishing, Al-Shabaab's involvement in the charcoal trade and the disappearance of troops following border clashes between Djibouti and Eritrea, he said. Going forward, Somalia must ensure access to all areas for the delivery of aid, he said, describing Al-Shabaab as the biggest threat to peace.
In the ensuing debate, speakers highlighted a range of concerns, from the humanitarian crisis and armed terrorist groups to reported pirate attacks. Many agreed that assistance was needed to build on recent gains, including Somalia's successful elections.
Some speakers emphasized the priority of fighting terrorist groups, especially Al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh), with France's representative urging the Somali authorities to swiftly develop the security architecture necessary for the police and armed forces to take over from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Several speakers called for modifying existing sanctions. The Russian Federation's representative proposed loosening the arms embargo to allow Somalia's armed forces to receive the materials they needed.
The sanctions regime was not a dogma, he said, emphasizing that it must be revised to reflect changing situations. Others credited sanctions with having helped to prevent terrorist groups from arming themselves.
The representative of the United States stressed the importance of a Monitoring Group visit to Eritrea, noting that without that Government's engagement, the Council could otherwise not make informed decisions on sanctions.
Some Council members voiced support for the proposed visit. Ethiopia's representative emphasized that any visit must remain free of preconceived assumptions, allowing the Committee to observe first-hand the boundary demarcation between Eritrea and Ethiopia, among other pressing concerns, including Eritrea's compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions.
The United Kingdom's delegate said that country's refusal to cooperate with the Monitoring Group left no other way to verify whether or not it supported Al-Shabaab and other armed groups.
Eritrea's representative called on the Council to ensure Ethiopia's immediate, unconditional withdrawal from sovereign Eritrean territory. It was also time to lift the sanctions, he said, describing the measures as unjustified.
Maintaining them could only be viewed as a desire to spread crises in an already conflict-ridden region, he added.
Pointing out that Eritrea had been cleared of wrongdoing in Somalia, had no links to Al-Shabaab and was committed to Qatar-sponsored mediation efforts to release all Djibouti prisoners of war, he said the Monitoring Group had visited Eritrea twice before and there would be no value in another trip.
Djibouti's representative said he was deeply saddened that Eritrea had chosen to obstruct the Monitoring Group, denying it all access to the information needed to determine its compliance or otherwise with Council resolutions.
Warning that Eritrea continued to provide support to Al-Shabaab, he urged that country to clarify the situation of 13 Djibouti prisoners of war who remained unaccounted for, and to comply with the 2010 Qatar Mediation Agreement on the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea.
Also speaking today were representatives of Senegal, Egypt, China, Sweden, Ukraine, Japan, Uruguay, Italy and Bolivia.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea, provided an overview of recent developments. The Committee had received notifications related to the arms embargo on Somalia and was working on the issues of sanctions violations and actions of armed groups.
He said the monitoring group had reported a number of concerns, noting that Al-Shabaab remained the most pressing threat in Somalia.
In addition, the discovery of about 25,000 guns aboard a vessel had led to an ongoing investigation into the origin and destination of those weapons.