The FCO have just released this:
The Eritrean Foreign Minister, Osman Saleh, and Yemane Ghebreab, senior political adviser to the President, visited the Foreign Office from 7-8 February. This was the first Eritrean ministerial visit to the UK. The Eritrean Delegation met the Minister of Africa, Henry Bellingham, the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, and had meetings with senior FCO and UKBA officials.
A range of issues were discussed including the UK’s bilateral relationship with Eritrea; regional security and stability; migration and piracy. Mr Bellingham also underlined the importance the UK attaches to improvements to human rights, including the case of the G11 (the group of 11 parliamentarians arrested in September 2001), and religious and press freedoms.
Mr Bellingham also hosted a business roundtable for existing and potential investors in which 22 companies participated. Discussion centred on potential investment opportunities in the extractive industries, infrastructure development, agriculture and financial services.
There is a (good?) chance that they’ll have received a proper bollocking, plus a subtle reminder that they would be looked after if Isaias has one too many drinks and a fall, and they don’t put the brakes on a democratic alternative.
And then there’s the carrot: the business roundtable.
I’ve said this before: I’m all for western companies investing in Eritrea. The country will need money and technical expertise if it is to grow its economy and sustain its population. Eritrea could – I am sure – do it by itself. But why not get there quicker with cash and skills from abroad?
I hope we’ll find out which companies attended, because we need to make sure that they are fully aware of the challenges they are letting themselves in for. (Hopefully this FoI request will give us the information.)
They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with weak ‘Code of Ethics’, which don’t seem to be enforced – like Nevsun.
They need to know that if they are working with and procuring services from organisations such as the Eritrean State Mining Company (ENAMCO) their hands are going to get dirty. Geologists and other professionals do not work there or at other state-owned companies of their own accord. Some of them will, undoubtedly, be conscripted. And in Eritrea conscription isn’t 2 years before you go off to university, its essentially state slavery of an arbitrary length.