Leaked Eritrean Government Cable show Western governments ashamed for sanctioning Eritrea on false charges

Professor Tedros Kiros or Tedros Chaos?
Embassy of the State of Eritrea

United States of America

To: Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Asmara

Subject: Conversation with Ambassador Herman Cohen

23/Jan/2015 EOE-US-00415

I met Ambassador Herman Cohen, President and CEO of Cohen and Woods international, the former USA Assistance Secretary of State for Africa in our embassy office on 21 January 2015. The purpose of the meeting was to exchange ideas and follow up on the specific issues we have discussed upon in our last meeting.

During our last discussion, we have reached a consensus that his initial idea on the “resolution of the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea” was unrealistic and unattainable owing to the intransigence of Ethiopian government. Therefore we have agreed to focus his efforts on ways and means of lifting the unjust sanction imposed against Eritrea and on improving the relation between Eritrea and USA. It is also to be recalled that he had also promised to publish an article similar to the previous one and was also tasked to assess the position of the State Department and, whenever he got the opportunity, to work and positively influence US policy on Eritrea.

On my part, I started the discussion by appreciating his continued initiative and commitment. I briefed him on the all rounded progress we have made in Eritrea since our last meeting, the efforts we are making to solve problems at regional and international levels diplomatically and the enormous experiences we have accumulated in the this regard. Then, I asked him to focus on the issues we have last agreed and provide detailed information on the subjects he was tasked to accomplish i.e. if he had made any contacts with the relevant officials of State Department and its outcome? The assessment he had carried out and the contacts he established to tackle the problems relating to the removal of the sanctions imposed against Eritrea, and the assignment he was given to write a piece focused on important issues I have identified and given to him in our last meeting.

Ambassador Cohen replied to me as per our previous understanding that he has been doing his level best to find mechanisms to remove the sanction imposed against Eritrea and find ways at improving the relations between the United States and Eritrea. He said as the UN Security Council last report on Eritrea has indicated, there is no evidence whatsoever that incriminate Eritrea, and after assessing the increased interest of many of the Security Council members at lifting the sanction imposed against Eritrea; he said that he has come to conclude and organized his ideas to help the United States, the country he believes that could play the most important role in lifting the sanctions, to at least abstain and play positive role.

He has also informed me that to make some assessment he has contacted different officials in the State Department African Affairs, including, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Department for African Affairs Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum and the East African Affairs Director Nancy Cohen. In his discussions with these officials, he said, he had raised the benefit the USA would garner from the cooperation with Eritrea, by highlighting Eritrea as the most stable country in the most volatile Horn of Africa and Middle East region. He had also mentioned to them that it is the wish of the US Department of Defense for Eritrea to play an important role in the fight against terrorism and emphasized that this could serve as a good starting point to normalize the relations between the United States and Eritrea. He also added that many countries including allies of the United States that took hostile stance against Eritrea, due to the influence of the USA, are interested in removing the sanctions and would like to work with Eritrea. He further stated that in his discussion with these officials he preferred to take a middle ground in his argument to convince them in order for the United States to at least abstain in lifting the sanctions imposed against Eritrea.

According to what he said was an honest opinion of Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum and his assistant Director Nancy Cohen, he said the assessment made by the State Department with regards to improving the relations with Eritrea was not far from that of his position. In order to normalize relations between the two countries, the State Department believes, according to these officials, it is important that the sanction against Eritrea be removed and the United States should abstain to bring about the desired change in the relations. However, he further stated, the two State Department officials confided to him that the White House has different perspective towards Eritrea and there is a pending instruction to veto the lifting of the sanctions because the White House still believes that Eritrea is not yet ready to improve its relations and work with the United States.

Ambassador Cohen asked Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum and his assistance Director Nancy Cohen on what should be done to normalize USA-Eritrea relations. They stressed, he noted, that improved relations with Eritrea is very important more than ever to the strategic interests of the United States. In order to remove the strong opposition by the White House, they suggested for Eritrea to take “Cuba type” gestures that would help them reverse the hostile position taken by the White House. This gesture may include, for example, releasing the two detained US Embassy staff members, enhanced diplomatic representation between the two countries to ambassadorial level. If Eritrea takes these initiatives, they said, it would help influence the hostile attitude of the National Security Advisor (Suzan Rice) towards Eritrea. He also expressed his desire for me to pass on this message to the Government of Eritrea.

After putting his evaluation and conclusion on the visible differences between the White House and the State Department concerning the relations between the US and Eritrea, I have asked Ambassador Cohen what would be the impact and significance of the position of the State Department in normalizing the relations between the US and Eritrean.

He replied, the State Department due to geopolitical reasons especially because of the deteriorating security situation developing and has been taking shape in Yemen, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia, there is a complete consensus within the State Department that working with Eritrea would be to the best strategic interests of the United States. He further stated that this view is also shared by the US Department of Defense and the only obstacle remaining in place, he said, was the position taken by the White House particularly by Suzan Rice and her followers. Ambassador Cohen further commented that although Suzan Rice considers herself as an expert on African affairs, her diplomatic skills rely on intimidation and the use of force; her decisions solely based on love and hate, driven by personal bias and according to his opinion she is categorically unfit for diplomacy.

Furthermore, Ambassador Cohen said that he had also discussed the issue of the sanction with French ambassador to Washington who was the permanent representative of France to UN. Ambassador Cohen learned from the French ambassador that the UK and French also want the sanction imposed against Eritrea to be removed. According to what the French Ambassador had told to Ambassador Cohen, perpetuating and maintaining this unjust sanction have become a source of shame to his country. However, the French Ambassador said, the strong stance of the USA to maintain the sanctions in place on the one hand and the inflexibility of Asmara to improve its relations with Washington on the other hand is complicating the situation. The French Ambassador further informed Ambassador Cohen that the strong position of the USA and more specifically the White House as the only remaining hurdle that needs to be overcome in order to remove the sanctions imposed against Eritrea.

Finally, regarding negotiations between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which we have agreed to give secondary attention due to its impracticality, Ambassador Cohen has come with the following assessments from his sources in Addis Ababa. He said there are elements within the EPRDF leadership who would like to resolve the conflict with Eritrea peacefully. However, few but very influential members of the ruling party do not subscribe to the idea of negotiation with Eritrea because they think the Government of Eritrea is dying by itself and maintain that there is no need for withdrawing Ethiopian troops from Eritrea and no urgency to demarcate the border. He said these elements are pushing hard against the peaceful settlement of the conflict with Eritrea.

The points I proposed to him can be summarized as follows

  • I emphasized on the significance of the paper he promised to write which would help enhance awareness on the importance of removing the unjust sanction imposed against Eritrea and improving relations between the USA and Eritrea. I argued the publication and dissemination of this paper would help convince those who support the sanction to change their opinion while on the other side; it helps to boost the morale of those who support Eritrea. I strongly urged him to speed up the publication of this important article for it also creates an impact on the aggressive position of the White House. (He agreed on its importance and I will try to follow it up as necessary)

  • In order to overcome the obstacles and disseminate supportive idea towards Eritrea; I suggested to him the need to organize different forums, which would focus on the down side of supporting the continuation of sanctions imposed against Eritrea and showing the benefits for the United States from improved relations with Eritrea. I suggested this forum may involve concerned journalists, officials, congressmen and think tanks and to implement this idea to see whether his lobby firm, Cohen & Woods International, could do it or I asked him to make some assessment if these forums could be organized, through his influence, by other think-tanks and academics. (He accepted the idea. However, as Cohen & Woods International is a lobby firm, he promised to find out other pertinent think- thanks to organize the forum)

  • On his part Ambassador Cohen has asked me to communicate to the relevant Eritrean Government authorities the efforts he has been making to establish contacts with officials of the State Department. I encourage him to continue his communications with the officials of the State Department and I also promised to him to establish communication with officials of the African Affairs, whenever I got the opportunity or meet them if they are willing to see me.

  • With regards to the points he raised that Eritrea should have taken the initiative as a good gesture, I replied to him that Eritrea has been asked to deliver more than its capabilities. To support Ethiopia at the expense of the national security and the very existence of Eritrea, the country has been forced to pay enormous sacrifices over the last 17 years. Therefore I told him this injustice to be rectified first. I emphasized our position to him that trying to address very minor and side issues, leaving aside the most basic and fundamental ones would not help but only complicate the solution to the main problem.Finally we have agreed to continue our communication on regular basis, to exchange useful information and enhance our joint efforts. In addition, I invited him and his wife to participate on the 35 anniversary of Eritrean Women’s Association exhibition which demonstrates the role played by women in the liberation struggle and after the independence to be held on March 07/2015 in Washington DC, which he accepted.


Berhane Gebrehiwot Chargé D’affaires