Eritrea, one of Africa’s most prominent supporters of Russia, has sent a delegation to Moscow, amid the Ukraine conflict, in what the country’s officials say is meant to strengthen ties.
The calls were made on Thursday after a senior Eritrean delegation composed of Minister of Foreign Affairs Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebreab began a two-day working visit in Russia.
According to a statement issued by the Eritrean Ministry of Information, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov briefed the Eritrean delegation on the genesis of the conflict in Ukraine, the objectives of Russia and the current situation, during a meeting held on Thursday in Moscow.
The Eritrean delegation reiterated Asmara’s principled position, and called on Russia and Ukraine to find a bilateral solution to the conflict.
“Bilaterally, Eritrea and Russia agreed on concrete measures to upgrade their political, diplomatic, trade, investment, educational and cultural ties,” Yemane Gebremeskel, Eritrean Information minister, said on his Twitter page.
According to the statement, Eritrea was invited for the working visit by Mr Lavrov.
The Horn of Africa country was the only African country which voted against a UN General Assembly resolution on March 2, 2022 deploring Russia's invasion and demanding for the immediate end of Russia's military operations in Ukraine. The resolution eventually passed but Eritrea, Belarus, Syria and North Korea stood out for opposing it, and siding with Russia.
But now, the Eritrean government is calling on all parties to resolve the crisis through peaceful means.
African countries were divided on the voting which saw a support by 141 out of the 193 UN member states.
Out of the 54 African states, only 28 voted in a favour of the resolution while 17 African countries abstained from voting, including Algeria, South Africa, and Angola.
Eight African countries, including Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Morocco, refrained from submitting a vote.
Although Eritrea voted against, however, the intension behind this vote is not very clear.
According to some political analysts, Eritrea's intension against voting and the regime’s support for Russia is part of President Isaias Afwerki’s decades-long anti-American policy.
Mr Metta-Alem Sinishaw, a senior political analyst on Ethiopia and the East African region says Eritrea’s vote against the UN resolution may have been motivated by its regional ambition, bilateral relations, geopolitical and economic interests, rebuffing the United States, among others.
“Eritrea may have hoped to become the defacto representative of Russia, at least in the Horn if not other parts of Africa that are critical of the Western world,” Metta-Alem told The East African.
Following the United Arab Emirate’s withdrawal, Eritrea allowed Russia to build export infrastructure to export Eritrean potassium and a logistic base for Russia’s navy on the Assab port along the strategic Red Sea coast.
Metta-Alem said Eritrea may also have hoped to exploit Russian investment to project influence into landlocked Ethiopia. However, President Putin sidelined the Eritrean offer and moved to Sudan in 2021.
“Economically, Eritrea and Russia sought to expand their bilateral ties and Russia announced an unspecified plan to build a logistics centre at the Eritrean strategic port of Assab in the strategic Red Sea region.
“Rebuffing the USA and the West, recently Eritrea and Russia disparaged foreign meddling and illegitimate sanctions by the West.
“Resisting the West best fits Eritrean domestic propaganda and serves as [a] critical tool to maintain grip on power,” Metta-Alem added.
Afwerki’s anti-American Campaign began after Eritrea and Ethiopia engaged in a bloody war over border disputes.
After the two-year long border war ended in 2000, Afwerki dismantled leadership structures of the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), and arrested or exiled members of the central and executive committees to consolidate an authoritarian regime.
Afwerki then turned a deaf ear to increasing pressures from the US and the West to make the new nation's political system more transparent and allow for greater freedom of expression.
Afwerki has since been using anti-American Campaign as a key pillar of his dictatorship.
Since Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, the country has never held national elections and has been a one-party state.