President Isaias’s increasing dependence on Saudi Arabia

A Saudi delegation has just visited Eritrea.

Apart from the 20 man delegation (and they were all men) posing for photographs and issuing an uninformative press statement, the Eritrean public was left none the wiser about what took place.

But this should not hide the increasing dependence of Eritrea on the Saudis.

The Ethiopia – Eritrea peace deal was signed in Saudi Arabia in September 2018. After it was signed the UAE, the Saudi ally in the war in Yemen announced it was giving Ethiopia a $3 billion ‘support package.’

It is likely that Eritrea received a similar sum. The Saudis may have matched this. We are unlikely to ever know.

In January 2020 the Saudis announced the formation of the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden Council – with Eritrea as a member. This was just what President Isaias wanted. He has long disliked the regional organisation: IGAD, which he cannot control.

The Saudi role was underlined in President Isaias’s said in his lengthy interview/speech on 17 February this year.

“Saudi Arabia should have a special place in the region. As much as possible we will try to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s role in the region not only in terms of their involvement in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Saudi Arabia has the economic resources, regional and international influence but this has not been fully recognised for a long time.”

What do the Saudi and the Eritrean governments have in common?

For a start, neither have even the remotest interest in democracy. Neither have a working parliament. Their populations have no say in the running of their countries.

Like Isaias Afwerki, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also brooks no opposition.

The Prince – the effective ruler of the kingdom – ordered the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

President Isaias has attacked opponents in neighbouring states and harassed the diaspora around the world.

In this sense they are ideal partners.

But the Saudis should recall how swiftly President Isaias can change his mind. He has repeatedly switched sides in Sudan.

And he had no hesitation in dropping his long term alliance with Iran when it suited him.

President Isaias in Iran 2008

President Isaias’s relationship with the Saudi kingdom may work for the time being, but long-term friendships and alliances are not part of the Eritrean leaders playbook.






  1. Most of all they are both rouge states. Abiy is joining them for good. The Amharas must be the most confused people in the world right now, they are supporting their own predator and swallowing their own mother, the Orthodox Tigray. What a fate and what a black history

  2. What is ” Amhara” has to do here ?? Saudi and Eritrea are now more close thanks to Joe Biden. This is a coalition against Iran. Iran, EU and USA Vs Saudi, Israel, Eritrea. The battle field is Yemen.
    USA/EU attack on Ethio Eritrea relationship supporting the defeated TPLF will bring also tension between Egypt and Saudi. Egypt/Sudan is supporting TPLF agsinst Ethio Eritrea. Saudi stand matters for both Egypt and Sudan. West Ethiopia border is cleared from TPLF killers by Amhara special force, EDF and Eritrea Sudan aggression with the help of Egypt is the next battle. Sudanese public is against the war. Ethiopians will mobilize in short order to crush it.

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