Ethiopia-Eritrea border: Landmark summit aims to end conflict

Elias Hubbard
July 9, 2018

Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki welcomed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the Asmara airport.

Ethiopia and Eritrea are no longer at war, the neighbours said in a joint statement on Monday, a day after their leaders held a historic meeting in Asmara.

It has been close to two decades since leaders of the two neighbouring countries have met.

"The normalisation of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the resolution of the border issue will undoubtedly benefit the people of the two countries", he said. Landlocked Ethiopia was left without access to Eritrea's ports on the Red Sea, while Eritrea lost its biggest trading partner and remained mired in poverty and a constant state of military readiness.

The visit comes a month after Abiy surprised people by fully accepting a peace deal that ended a two-year border war between the two East African nations that killed tens of thousands.

Ethiopia's foreign ministry called the visit "part of efforts to normalize relations with Eritrea" and said Abiy was expected to talk with Eritrea's leadership about "how to mend fences".

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in Eritrea's capital and met up with President Afwerki in Asmara.

The two neighbors also agreed to resume flights, open embassies and develop ports together. The two leaders spoke of love between their countries and announced the end of the longstanding border war.

Eritrea's information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, said the summit between the two leaders "heralds a new era of peace and co-operation".

Direct worldwide telephone connections were restored between the two countries for the first time after two decades, an Ethiopian official said on Sunday. He said the Ethiopian leader's visit was "history in the making" and had "set the tone for rapid, positive changes".

"As you pursue your policy of peace in the region and rapprochement towards Eritrea, we also look forward to Eritrea rejoining the IGAD family and taking its rightful place of collectively advancing peace and development in our region". He did not identify which port.

"We will demolish the wall and, with love, build a bridge between the two countries", Abiy continued. In early June, Ethiopia announced it would honor all the terms of the 2000 peace deal, suggesting it might be ready to settle the border dispute.

Mr Abiy, who took office in April, has accepted a ruling awarding disputed territory to Eritrea.

As well as his overtures to Eritrea, Mr Abiy has lifted a state of emergency, freed political prisoners and announced economic reforms.

The historic meeting came after Abiy's announcement last month that Ethiopia would cede to Eritrea land along the countries' border it occupies in violation of a 2002 United Nations-backed boundary demarcation.

In more unprecedented actions, thousands Eritreans took to the streets to welcome Abiy, footage from Eritrea's state TV showed, and the streets of the capital of one of the world's most isolated nations were lined with Ethiopian flags.

Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Africa and an economic powerhouse, but Eritrea is one of the world's most closed and militarized societies, often compared with North Korea.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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