Asmara ‘very torn’ on Gulf Crisis: analysts

Eritrea is geographically close to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations of Qatar and UAE. Eritrea’s government faces conflicting pressures to take sides in a diplomatic row between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia,

Eritrea is geographically close to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations of Qatar and UAE.

Eritrea’s government faces conflicting pressures to take sides in a diplomatic row between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates on the other, according to several international relations analysts.

The Saudis, Emirates and Egyptians are seeking concessions from Qatar over its alleged support for extremist groups in the Middle East, and they also want the Gulf nation to close the independent broadcaster Al Jazeera.

A number of African nations have taken sides in the dispute. Djibouti and Somaliland announced their ‘solidarity’ with the Saudi-led coalition, downgrading relations with Qatar, Chad and Senegal recalled their ambassadors from Doha, and Mauritania severed its ties altogether.

However, Eritrea has yet to cut off or even downgrade relations with Qatar. The country’s information ministry announced June 12th that it saw the Saudi-led initiative against Qatar as being “in the right direction,” but the statement also implied that Qatar alone was not to blame for terrorism in the region and called for an amicable resolution of the crisis.

Kjetil Tronvoll, Professor of Peace and Conflict studies at Bjørknes University College, says that Eritrea’s government “haven’t turned against Qatar as much as they have shown an inclination to accept the Saudi argument.”

Tronvoll, speaking with The Messenger for a podcast published last week, said that Eritrea’s position is “deliberately ambiguous.” He added that the Asmara has thus far positioned itself “to possibly ride both horses, at least for the time being.”

Annette Weber, a researcher on the Middle East and Africa at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, says Eritrea has ‘very close’ ties to both Qatar and Saudi Arabia, leaving the Eritrean government reluctant to take sides.

“Eritrea [is a member] of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, however, they… have very close ties to Qatar,” she told Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public international broadcaster. “Most countries in Africa have ties with Qatar and not many of them have strong feelings against it,” added Weber.

In the meantime, a so-called ‘fake news’ story about Eritrea in Arabic press earlier this month added to the ambiguity of the situation. An Arabic-language statement cited in several Middle Eastern and Turkish news agencies on June 9th, and also circulated on social media, purported to come from Eritrea’s foreign ministry and expressed solidarity with “brother Doha.”

The statement said that it was “impossible to cut ties” with Qatar and that Eritrea rejected demands to do so. But the country’s information minister afterwards took to Twitter to disavow the statement and described it as “forged” on foreign ministry letterhead. He did not, however, elaborate further on the actual state of relations with Qatar or Saudi Arabia, nor did Eritrea’s foreign ministry issue its own statement of retraction.

Several factors explain Eritrea’s reluctance to sever ties with Qatar. According to Harry Verhoeven, a lecturer at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Eritrea has previously found the Gulf state to be a reliable friend, even when Asmara’s relations were not good with either the West or other Gulf powers.

“I think it would be difficult for Eritrea… to cut off ties completely with Qatar,” Verhoeven said, speaking in an interview with The Messenger earlier this month.

Verhoeven, who has written extensively on international relations in the Horn of Africa region, predicted that the Gulf Crisis could have destabilizing effects unless it is contained. “This is bad news. The worry is that it will lead to a further destablization in the sense that you could see a bidding war for loyalties… because the Saudis and Emiratis are almost certain to put very heavy pressure particularly on Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia to choose sides and to ditch their historical relationship with Qatar if the standoff would continue,” he said.

“There are potentially quite juicy rewards,” he added, citing profits allegedly reaped by Sudan, Eritrea and, to a lesser extent, Somalia, during an earlier bidding war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has resulted in reduced Iranian influence in the region.

‘You could see a bidding war for loyalties.’

Tronvoll, asked about whether a UAE military base situated on Eritrean soil is relevant to the situation responded, “It is an element, but it is not determinental, I would say. The Emirates’ base in Assab is used for the operations in Yemen and it kind of has a rather narrow presence and mandate as such.”

“But obviously it gives financial income to Eritrea and it also binds them to a certain degree to Emirates and their interests in the region; and because Emirates are siding with Saudi it’s more difficult for Asmara to go against the Saudi-Emirates alliance, since they have the Emirates base in Assab.”

Tronvoll cautioned against making any hard conclusions at this stage: “One thing that is predictable with Eritrea and Isaias’ regime is his unpredictability. He can change 180 degrees if he finds that opportunity in the moment. One needs to not jump to conclusions as to where Eritrea will go and land in this conflict.”

For his part, Verhoeven says he anticipates a “very double feeling” in Asmara about what is happening in the Gulf. “Part of the elite may well be wishing for some speedy reconciliation, another part may be seeing some opportunity, particularly financial opportunities in this.”

Eritrea’s leaders “certainly don’t want to throw Qatar under the bus straight away. On the other hand, saying no to the Saudis and the Emiratis combined — given the amount of financial resources and military power… saying no to those two is extremely difficult.”

Source: messengerafrica.com

aseye.assenna@googlemail.com

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9 COMMENTS
  • Keshi Mars June 30, 2017

    Hello Assennatatattt….., “Hji TefaEna” belt isaias. “Andun mreT Andun qureT” bele AmHarai:: nHadiA iya lebzeben nHadiA: ho ybahal aloye gobez naAtelo::

  • Sol June 30, 2017

    For the land Lord DIA, Eritrea is nothing except a real estate that he lease to anybody who can pay the highest price.

  • Z. Hagos June 30, 2017

    According to a Saudi opposition group, the Saudi and the Qatari governments are one body with two heads. Therefore, from their anti-neighboring countries policies it is understood that they are using the same one heart of Wahabisim to further divide and weaken the neighboring countries. The Syrians also call the Saudi-Qatari conflict as fake to cover up their defeat in Syria and Iraq. Isaias knows about their fake games because he his always part of them. Those terrorists that are still run by both are still financed by them and protected by the west, according to Syrians, Libyans, Yemenis and Iraqis. Both the Saudis and Qataris are each other accusing and speaking of need to compensate those damaged countries by their terrorists. That compensation should include for damages caused by Isaias against the Eritrean people and the Eritrean people because Isaias was commanded by them to do the damages that he caused to the Eritreans.

  • Amba June 30, 2017

    Poor Issaias and Eritrea, at the end, must obey their Arab masters — the most ignorant Wahabbi savages across the Red Sea. This is what indentured slaves or as our Arab masters call us “….ds” are supposed to do.
    If one hates his own proud ancestral history, identity and languages, he always lives as a slave, no matter what garments he wears, how fluent he speaks an alien language or what faked name he calls himself.
    Eritreans have once again been humiliated not in Egypt Sinai, Gedarf Sudan or Trubuli Libya but also, right in their own land. If you follow cowards with enslaved minds, then you become one of them.

  • Amba July 1, 2017

    ንኤርትራ ቆልዓ ሰበይቲ ፈንፊንዋ ፡ ኩሉ ጠንጢንዋ “ነብሰይ ኣውጽእኒ” እናበለ ፡ ይሃድም ኣሎ።
    ወይ ውርደት፡ ንሕና ኤርትራውያን: “ኣፍርቃውያን ኣይኮናን። ሓበሻ ኣይኮናን።” ተባሂሉ ብጃህራ ከምዘይተፈከረ።
    ሓደ ለባም ከምዝበሎ፣ “እቲ ቐደም ብዓሻታትና ንኢትዮጵያውያን ‘ኣድጊ’ እናበለና ንጻረፍ ኔርና።
    ሎሚ ግና ጠይቂ ናይ ዓረብ በደዊን ራሻይዳ ኴና ፡ ተጓሒፍና።”
    ““Eritrea [is a member] of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, however, they… have very close ties to Qatar,” she told Deutsche Welle, …. ”
    “….. On the other hand, saying no to the Saudis and the Emiratis combined — given the amount of financial resources and military power… saying no to those two is extremely difficult.””

  • adhanom July 1, 2017

    Iseyas did support the action describing it as ” a step in the right direction.” Looking at the 13 point presented it is easy to understund it is a mockery and fake and has nothing to do with terrorism. Infact, saudi is the bigest sponsor of terrorism in the world. Secondly, we do not have a horse in the race for shia or sunni dominance in middle east, we are africa. A prostitute however, does not know who she is sleeping with other than money she is paid for.

  • Kidane Beraki July 1, 2017

    Poor “amba” you may you repaired your shatterrd ego or your painfull inferiority complex but the Eritreans are laughing at your cheap/immature tricks. Get a life.

  • Kidane Beraki July 1, 2017

    Poor “amba” you may feel you repaired your shatterrd ego or your painfull inferiority complex but the Eritreans are laughing at your cheap/immature tricks. Get a life.

  • k.tewolde July 1, 2017

    In the USA they call it ‘butty call’, if the garb wearing billionaires want their dirty work executed who did they call,you guessed it, the Eritrean tyrant and his likes,he can dispatch those poor kids who he is molding and packaging in SAWA stat for few Riyale. The oblivious kids don’t even know if they are in Badime or Bab el mendeb when they land.

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