On a visit to Paris, the Eritrean Minister of Foreign Affairs responded to questions RFI

It is a massive and continuous exodus for several years. Part of the Eritrean population has already fled the country with Nigeria is the first provider of refugees in Europe. Many of them die on the way. The Eritrean government rarely speaks to foreign media. On a visit to Paris, the Eritrean Minister of Foreign Affairs responded to questions RFI. It is also expressed on charges of crimes against humanity made by the UN, on political prisoners in the country and recent clashes on the border with Ethiopia.

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It is a massive and continuous exodus for several years. Part of the Eritrean population has already fled the country with Nigeria is the first provider of refugees in Europe. Many of them die on the way. The Eritrean government rarely speaks to foreign media. On a visit to Paris, the Eritrean Minister of Foreign Affairs responded to questions RFI. It is also expressed on charges of crimes against humanity made by the UN, on political prisoners in the country and recent clashes on the border with Ethiopia.

RFI: Fighting broke out on the border with Ethiopia on Sunday June 12 What can you tell us?

Omar Saleh: Yes, there was fighting. Ethiopia has given several versions of what happened. This demonstrates that they are completely disoriented. Ethiopian Prime Minister even said before his parliament that Ethiopia would attack Eritrea at any time.

According to several sources, the incident began when Eritrean soldiers shot young Eritreans who were trying to flee the country. An Eritrean rebel group based in Ethiopia have fought back. Can you confirm this story?

This is why I told you that the Ethiopians have given several versions of the facts, but they are the ones who attacked us. They can say what they want is they who attacked us and not acecptable.

Do you admit that you are supporting Ethiopian rebel groups on your soil, groups destabilizing the region as Ginbot 7?

No we do not support any armed group.

And regarding the OLF and ONLF?

No we do not support all these groups.

Beyond this incident, can you explain why hundreds of young Eritreans leave your country?

Uh … first of all, it is a highly politicized and polarized case. The numbers of those fleeing are completely inflated because Europe systematically gives political asylum to Eritreans only. Many Somalis, Ethiopians and others leave their country, saying ” we are Eritreans .” Other Eritreans leave because they want to work!

There is no work in Eritrea?

You know there are sanctions against Eritrea …

No there is an embargo on arms, there are no economic sanctions.

No, there was indirect economic sanctions on Eritrea! Eritrea has not the ability to buy spare parts for its machines …. its machines for its development program. And at the same time, we can not collect the tax of 2% on the diaspora. Some countries have already banned. So there are many direct and indirect economic sanctions.

There are some days, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry has accused your government of committing crimes against humanity. Do not you think that there is a link between this finding and the fact that so many people flee your country?

You know, they say there is a military service indefinitely. But that is not true. Many young people have been demobilized, about 100 000. Those who leave the country are those demobilized. And national service is not indefinite.

But for a certain period beyond 18 months, the young are kept available because the Ethiopians constantly conduct incursions in our territory. It is essential for us to have this national service.

So you admit that everyone is mobilized all the time?

Not everyone is not mobilized, but there are many incursions. This is permanent! And that national service is to “nation building”.

The UN says 400,000 people are “enslaved” because of this national service …

This claim is not acceptable.

According to the UN, Eritreans are routinely and arbitrarily arrested and detained, tortured. Some disappeared or were executed. How many there are in Eritrea detention centers?

We have no detention center. The investigators of the commission never came in Eritrea

But you have not granted their visas …

We do not give them. Because it is a panel that consists of partisan manner. Because we already participate in the UN process of the Universal Periodic Review and I think we work well with the United Nations and the European Union. And that’s enough.

In 2001, many personalities have been in prison in Eritrea (reformists, journalists, military) … How many are still alive today?

They are all alive.

Among these prisoners there include Petros Solomon, who was foreign minister like you. He is alive ?

He’s alive, I know he’s alive.

He will be judged?

The government shall ensure their safety so they are in good hands.

Among these prisoners, there is also the journalist Davit Isaak. He is alive ?

He’s alive too!

Will it judged?

Yes of course. When the government decides, through a judicial process, and I think he will be released.

So what is the government that decides, there is no independent judiciary?

If we have an independent judiciary, but they are political prisoners, and it is the government that does it.

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