The US push comes after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week that the 15-nation council should consider lifting the arms embargo to help rebuild Somalia’s security forces and consolidate military gains against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants.
The Security Council imposed the embargo in 1992 to cut the flow of arms to feuding warlords, who a year earlier ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged Somalia into civil war.
“I think we’ll come down in terms of having probably a political lift of the arms embargo but retaining some controls,” said a senior Western diplomat on condition of anonymity.
“What the Somali government partly wants is a political signal that they are now a sovereign government and we’re supporting them, rather than a trusteeship,” the diplomat said. “They say the bad guys are getting weapons and the good guys are not.”
It was not clear what a “political lift” of the embargo would entail, though diplomats said it may involve easing arms import restrictions on Somalia while ensuring that a strict monitoring mechanism remains in place.
Diplomats said Britain and France have been reluctant to support ending the arms embargo. The Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, which monitors compliance with the sanctions regime, has also opposed the idea of lifting it, UN envoys said.
Those who oppose getting rid of the arms embargo say Somalia’s security sector still includes elements close to warlords and militants, an allegation the Somali government rejects.
“There are no Somali warlords that threaten peace and stability in Somalia,” the deputy UN ambassador for Somalia, Idd Beddel Mohamed, told Reuters. “They are normal citizens now, members of parliament. The embargo must be lifted.”
Somalia wants help strengthening its poorly equipped and ill-disciplined military that is more of a loosely affiliated umbrella group of rival militias than a cohesive fighting force loyal to a single president.
There are 17,600 U.N.-mandated African Union peacekeepers helping battle the Islamist rebels in Somalia. The AU mission’s mandate is up for renewal in March, which is when the changes under discussion, if approved, would take effect.
“There’s no guarantee there will be a lifting of the arms embargo but it’s something the U.S. wants,” an envoy said.