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techkenyot.com July 16, 2018


Eritrea: Ethiopian Leader Arrives in Eritrea for Landmark Summit

09 July 2018, 08:15 | Glen Norman

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki | Ashraf Shazly and Sumy Sadruni AFP

Leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea attend historic summit to end two-decade-long border dispute

In a further sign of warming ties, direct global phone calls have been restored between the two countries for the first time in more than 20 years, the Ethiopian prime minister's office said.

The two sides have remained on a war footing since then.

The countries have also agreed to re-establish trade and diplomatic ties.

Eritrea may have seen an opportunity in Abiy's reform agenda, which marks a stark departure from the approach of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the ethnic Tigrayan party that had dominated Ethiopia's ruling EPRDF coalition since the early 1990s.

The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a "joint declaration of peace and friendship", Eritrea's information minister said, a day after a landmark summit marked a start to normalisation of ties between the longtime foes.

The Algiers agreement came after the two neighbors fought a bloody war from 1998-2000 in which 70,000-80,000 people perished on both sides.

Until now, Eritrea has always said that war could resume at any time and so had national conscription, which could last indefinitely.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived at Asmara International Airport on Sunday, for a meeting with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki a moment many political commentators termed as "historic".

Abiy has also pardoned dissidents, lifted a state of emergency and pledged to partly privatise key state-owned firms.

The two embraced again at the state dinner, hosted by Isaias and broadcast on both countries' state television.

However, it has also attracted opposition from hardliners in the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the ethnic Tigrayan party that has dominated the ruling EPRDF coalition - and by association the country and economy - for almost three decades.

The deal would also include a resumption of phone connections, Ethiopia's foreign ministry said.

For the last 20 years, it has been impossible to travel directly from one nation to the other.

This raises the possibility that families who have been divided by the conflict could finally be reunited.

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What are other leaders saying?

The executive secretary of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has hailed the historic efforts towards the restoration of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Ethiopia's neighbour, Kenya, congratulated the two leaders on Twitter adding that "we are together with you".

Kagame, who is the current Chairperson of the African Union Summit, welcomed the meeting.

He said the deal included a commitment to open embassies in Addis Ababa and Asmara and a plan to resume flights between the two capitals.

While this has opened the door for peace there is still a "long way to go to achieve lasting peace", Asmara resident Ms Mela told the BBC.

"We salute the leaders; PM of Ethiopia Dr. Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea for their courage and doing the right thing for their people of the two countries!"

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The BBC's Emmanuel Igunza in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa says it is not clear when Ethiopian troops will withdraw from the disputed territories.



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