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Unresolved Eritrea-Djibouti Tensions Threaten Regional Peace

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When Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed last month to end their decades-long conflict, the international community responded enthusiastically.

Less than a day after the countries signed a joint declaration of peace, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres suggested that sanctions against Eritrea, imposed for alleged support of al-Shabab, an extremist group based in Somalia, may soon be lifted.

That action would further undo Eritrea’s isolation.

But lingering grievances with its neighbor, Djibouti, could complicate regional integration, experts say.

Escalating tension

Eritrea’s push to forge regional ties moved forward last week when President Isaias Afwerki invited Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to the capital, Asmara, in a striking show of high-level diplomacy after more than a decade of frayed relations.

But rapprochement with one neighbor heightened tensions with another.

During the visit, Mohamed voiced his country’s support for lifting U.N. sanctions against Eritrea, a gesture that drew ire from both Djibouti and opposition groups within Somalia.

Sanctions were imposed in 2009, not only over concerns about Eritrea’s role in Somalia, but also its dealings with Djibouti.

Last November, the U.N. recommended dropping inquiries into connections in Somalia after failing to find evidence of links to al-Shabab. But it reiterated concerns about Eritrea’s border with Djibouti and its unwillingness to seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

That’s prompted Djibouti, which contributes troops to the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia, to demand mediation.

But other factors may be fueling its grievances.

Some experts on the region believe that a rekindled relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea leaves Djibouti out in the cold.

Source: Voice of America

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