Israel faces many adversaries that don’t recognize it or its right to self-determination; Somaliland is also unrecognized as a state by most countries.
Both share a history with Britain. The British defeated the Ottoman Empire, captured Palestine and later established treaties with the Jewish people in Israel. Somaliland tribal leaders granted the British a protectorate in the territory that would became British Somaliland and subsequently gained independence on June 26, 1960. Israel was first of 34 countries, including the United States, to recognize Somaliland.
Somaliland, which joined South Somalia in a union that lasted until 1991, finds itself politically isolated, in the middle of a hostile region threatened by a sinister and pernicious enemy in the form of encroaching religious extremism. With a population of four million, Somaliland faces hard-line opposition from wider Somalia, with population of 10 million. Israel is perceived as enemy to Arab world with an estimated population of 400 million and economic power of $2.5 trillion a year. Somaliland and Israel face significant opposition and near total rejection of the 22 nations of the Arab world who support the positions of Somalia and Palestinian Arabs, respectively.
Despite overwhelming obstacles, both Somaliland and Israel are beating the odds. Israel is one of the most developed nations in the Middle East and the world, with per capita annual income of $42k and thriving and sophisticated industries. Israeli technology and corporations are pioneers of advanced research and development in the world. Although Israel is situated in semi-desert land that has little potential for agriculture, they have reached 90% food security.
Somaliland, unrecognized by most countries and with limited foreign direct investment, has a flourishing private sector economy, highly advanced telecom, digital economy, peace and stability and democratic processes rare in Africa. It is the only Muslim democracy in the horn of Africa and maintains cordial diplomatic relationships with Western powers and African nations.
Somaliland needs investment, technology and know-how. It has an abundance of resources, such as oil and gas, and strategic positioning that add to its geopolitical prowess. As Israel warms up its relationships with the Arab world and Africa, and Somaliland can a potential ally and friend that can fulfill a strategic Israeli goal – a loyal Muslim ally in the Red Sea region.
Somaliland needs a strong partner that has little to lose in maintaining strong support with Hargeisa, our capital. Alleged Russian interest in establishing a military base in Somaliland, albeit a potential positive development, threatens Somaliland’s close relationship with Washington and the EU, thus Israel stands as a key missing piece in Somaliland puzzle.
The government of Israel has shown interest in restoring the de jure recognition it offered to Somaliland in 1960, considering its role in the geopolitics of the Red Sea and the Horn. According to a local source, Golisnews, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor has said his government is ready to recognize Somaliland again. Similar sentiment is shown in Somaliland, where influential people, academics, businessmen, civil society organizations and government officials are overwhelmingly in support of a close relationship with Tel Aviv.
The warm attitude toward Israel is not new. M. Haji Ibrahim Egal, the first prime minister of Somaliland, tirelessly solicited Israel’s support, addressing that very issue in a letter to former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Given the status of both states and their struggle for statehood and recognition, it is high time Israel and Somaliland renew their diplomatic relationship and mutual cooperation.
The writer is a liberal student and entrepreneur based in Somaliland.
On Wednesday (14 November), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing sanctions measures on Somalia while lifting sanctions on Eritrea, namely the arms embargoes, travel bans, asset freezes and targeted sanctions imposed on Eritrea in resolutions 1907 (2009), 2023 (2011), 2060 (2012) and 2111 (2013). Accordingly, the draft resolution states that the committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea will be known as the committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia.
The resolution also terminates the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) and establishes the Panel of Experts on Somalia in its stead.
The lifting of sanctions on Eritrea was the culmination of regional political developments that unfolded since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace agreement in Asmara on 9 July, ending a 20-year conflict. Eritrea and Ethiopia signed an Agreement on Peace, Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation on 16 September, which was welcomed by Council members in a press statement (SC/13516). Ethiopia then pushed in the Council for the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea.
Not all issues that led to the imposition of UN sanctions on Eritrea have been entirely resolved, however. In the midst of the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Djibouti transmitted a letter to the Secretary-General on 11 July calling on him, in close collaboration with the Security Council, to use his good offices to facilitate an agreement between the principal parties (that is, Djibouti and Eritrea) on a particular method of dispute settlement, preferably adjudication or arbitration. Resolutions 1862 and 1907 of 2009 called on Eritrea to withdraw its forces to their previous positions from an area disputed with Djibouti (the Ras Doumeira peninsula and adjacent territory), to engage in the peaceful settlement of the border dispute, and to resolve related issues such as unaccounted-for prisoners of war. Resolution 1907 imposes sanctions on Eritrea for obstructing the implementation of resolution 1862 concerning Djibouti.
Over the months that followed, Council members started to discuss the conditions under which sanctions would be lifted, taking into account that over the previous four years, the SEMG had not been able to find conclusive evidence that Eritrea was providing support to Al-Shabaab, the main reason the sanctions had been imposed. Council members conveyed to Eritrea that sanctions could be lifted if Eritrea committed to resolving its dispute with Djibouti and, considering that Eritrea has refused to acknowledge and cooperate with the Council’s sanctions regime, if it were to receive the chair of the Sanctions Committee (Ambassador Kairat Umarov of Kazakhstan) for a visit and meet with the coordinator of the SEMG.
Several encouraging developments ensued, paving the way for the lifting of sanctions. On 6 September, Eritrea and Djibouti announced the restoration of diplomatic ties, following a trilateral high-level meeting with Ethiopia, and the presidents of the two states met in Jeddah on 17 September. Then, on 25 September, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed met with Umarov, in his capacity as chair of the sanctions committee, in New York. This was followed by a 5 October meeting between an Eritrean presidential advisor and the SEMG, with the participation of Umarov, also in New York.
With respect to Al-Shabaab, Council members received the latest SEMG report in October, which reported that for the fifth year in a row, no conclusive evidence was found that Eritrea was providing support to Al-Shabaab. Furthermore, the report noted that other armed groups acting against Ethiopia with the support of Eritrea have now signed peace agreements with Ethiopia.
Heading into the negotiations on the resolution to be voted on tomorrow, there was consensus among Council members that the recent meetings between Eritrean officials, Umarov and the SEMG coordinator were sufficient to demonstrate Eritrea’s cooperation with the Sanctions Committee, and that there had been positive developments on the Eritrea-Djibouti front. Thus, there was a general willingness to work towards terminating sanctions on Eritrea.
Nevertheless, some Council members were more supportive than others. Ethiopia, with the support of some members, such as Russia and Sweden, expressed its readiness to end the sanctions. The US and France would have preferred to see further commitment by Eritrea and Djibouti to resolving their dispute, such as a letter to the Council.
Taking all of this into account, the draft resolution in blue terminates sanctions measures imposed on Eritrea, while underlining the importance of continuing efforts towards the normalisation of relations between Eritrea and Djibouti for regional peace, stability and reconciliation. In this regard, Council members have been given to understand that Djibouti no longer opposes the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, provided the Council continues to monitor the situation. The draft urges Eritrea and Djibouti to continue efforts to settle their border dispute peacefully in a manner consistent with international law by conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement, or by any other agreed means of pacific dispute settlement identified in Article 33 of the Charter, and for the parties to engage on the issue of the Djiboutian combatants missing in action.
Furthermore, the resolution confirms the Council’s intention to support the two countries’ effort to resolve their differences, requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council by 15 February 2019 and every six months thereafter on this matter, and expresses the Council’s intention to keep normalisation efforts under review. On the reporting requirement, Russia broke silence over a previous draft, taking the view that reporting should be annual rather than every six months. The final draft, however, retains the semi-annual reporting requirement.
With the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, Council members agreed to establish a Panel of Experts on Somalia until 15 December 2019, instead of the SEMG. The Council expresses its intention in the draft resolution to review the panel’s mandate and take appropriate action regarding its extension by 15 November 2019. Council members agreed that the number of experts on the panel should be fewer than the eight members of the SEMG; however, there was disagreement on the precise number. Russia wanted the panel to consist of five experts and broke silence on this issue. Other Council members insisted that the panel number six, and the draft in blue requests the Secretary-General to establish a panel of six experts, in consultation with the Sanctions Committee, drawing, as appropriate, on the expertise of the members of the SEMG. The draft further calls on the panel to include the necessary gender expertise, in line with paragraph 6 of resolution 2242 (2015).
The draft resolution further decides that the existing listing criterion under resolution 1844(2008) on engaging in or providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia may also include the planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence.
In addition to these changes in the sanctions regime, the draft resolution reaffirms the arms embargo on Somalia, while renewing the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somali security forces. It also requests the Secretary-General to conduct a technical assessment of the arms embargo, with options and recommendations for improving implementation, by 15 May 2019; renews the authorisation for maritime interdiction to enforce the embargo on illicit arms imports and charcoal exports; and renews the humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions regime.
This will be the second resolution that the Council will adopt on Somalia in November. On 6 November, the Council adopted resolution 2442renewing for 13 months the authorisations allowing international naval forces cooperating with Somali authorities to take measures against piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia. These include operations in Somalia’s territorial waters and related operations on land.
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