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               Asmara Skyline Project - Eritrea


Eritrean leader comments on donor-dependency, ties with Israel

Asmara, Eritrea, 20 July 2004 - Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki has said there can be no partnership between a donor and a beggar, stressing that his country will not follow some other African nations which are ordered around by those who help them. In an interview to Eritrean radio and television, President Isayas denied that appointment of ambassador to Israel marks a foreign policy change. The following is an excerpt from the interview broadcast by Eritrean radio on 18 July; subheadings inserted editorially


[Interviewer] Moving on to foreign policy, Eritrea pursues; policy of partnership and mutual development. It has a clear policy. How does this policy fare in the diplomatic circles? How are our relations America, Europe and Africa? And how is our role in regional organizations such as IGAD [Inter-Governmental Authority on Development], the Community of Sahel-Sahara States and the African Union at large? Eritrea is said in the process of opening an embassy in Israel, and how will this affect our relations with Arab countries?


"Donor-beggar" partnership


[Isayas] We have been talking about our international affairs. Your external relations are always linked to your internal situation. We call it partnership. Partnership can only exist between equal and independent people. There can be no partnership between a donor and a beggar. What kind of partnership can exist between a donor and a beggar? The donor has his own mentality and he cannot consider it a partnership. He views you as a beggar, so you are not his partner. Partnership is a concept that respects the dignity of nations and peoples. However, partnership cannot be realized only with emotions and goodwill. To say that you are in partnership, you have to be able to stand on your feet. To be in a partnership, we have to first ensure our economic independence. We have to be independent. We have to be able to export and import.


Begging is being considered a profession in many countries. You should not expect to live on handouts. For a regional and international partnership to be meaningful, we have to improve ourselves before accusing and (?cursing) others. However, many countries do not like this. The donor develops a habit or mentality of a provider. He may seem humane or interested, but he always suffers [from his mentality]. He does not want the beggar to be free and independent. He always expects the beggar to come and ask him for a favour. There are many governments in this world that want to be donors forever while expecting others to remain beggars. An individual or a government that has developed the mentality of a donor does not want to see the economic independence of others. [Passage omitted]


If we want to establish a real partnership, we have to ensure our economic, cultural as well as decision-making independence. Anybody who awaits handouts from others cannot have freedom of decision making. He cannot make decisions. So if you are to establish a partnership, you need to be independent yourself first.


This kind of policy of ours has been putting us into conflicts with many. But, we will not throw away our policy into a dustbin. Never! Why do they hate it? Why do they like dependence? Well, nobody can tell you that: You cannot get rich, you are hopeless, you have been condemned to live in poverty. But this is being practised at the moment.


Many African countries have become beggars and dependent, unable to do or to say what they want. If there need to be a real partnership, those who have not ensured their independence should be able to do so. As far as we are concerned, this condition should be created to establish a real partnership, and we should create it through our work and sweat. It does not mean we are ignoring others or we never need aid from others at this time of transition. Of course, there are many countries, organizations and individuals who really help when you are in need. Not the ones who feed you fish but those who teach you how to fish to enable you to become independent. There is a conflict of

interest, but that is natural.


Ties with Israel


There are so many things appearing in our world at the moment. How do we read and view them? You mentioned, for instance, Israel and Palestine. But the diplomatic relations [with Israel] are not new. The Israeli embassy is here since 1991 or 1993. That means we have diplomatic relations. We cannot have about 180 embassies all over the world. In some cases there are budget constraints. In other cases, there may no need for opening embassies. There are countries that appoint roving ambassadors. Considering our limited resources, and the importance of the embassies in question, it cannot be said we need embassies in all countries and the Israeli one is not an exception. The fact that we have now appointed an ambassador to Israel is not a policy change.


Israel-Palestine crisis


Regarding relations between Israel and Palestine, we have a different opinion from others. The Oslo Treaty was not right and did not work. The Madrid [treaty] that followed it did not work as well. The same with the Camp David [agreement], and now the so-called road map. The road map will not work. Unless there will be a tangible policy on the crisis, I can say that anyone who expects a solution is naive. This opinion may be considered a departure from the normal political and diplomatic assumptions, but let's view it in a brotherly manner. Where will the so-called road map get them [the Israelis and Palestinians]. If you look at it thoroughly, it is just a time-wasting. Nobody expects it to solve the conflict between Israel and the Palestine. There is so far no practical idea or agreement that can bring a final solution to the problem.


However, what I want to stress here is that this issue is none of our business. We cannot as well say in our foreign policy that this should be done or that should not. But we are free to comment. The final decision is the responsibility of others.


Hence, our diplomatic relations with Israel should not be linked to the crisis between Israel and Palestine. [Passage omitted: interviewer-read questions from listeners]


Source: Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea, Asmara, in Tigrinya