Ethiopia, Eritrea to normalize relations after historic meeting

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Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said his country would normalize relations with neighboring Eritrea following a historic meeting with President Isaias Afwerki in Asmara on Sunday, aimed at ending decades of diplomatic and armed strife.
The announcement capped weeks of whirlwind change, driven by Abiy, culminating in his visit to the Eritrean capital for face-to-face taks with Isaias.
“We agreed that the airlines will start operating, the ports will be accessible, people can move between the two countries and the embassies will be opened,” Abiy said at a dinner hosted by his Eritrean counterpart.
“We will demolish the wall and, with love, build a bridge between the two countries,” Abiy continued.
The sudden rapprochement will spell an end to a years-long cold war that has hurt both countries.
The Horn of Africa nations have remained at loggerheads since Ethiopia rejected a United Nations ruling and refused to cede to Eritrea land along the countries’ border following a 1998-2000 war that killed 80,000 people.
There was no sign of that animosity on Sunday.
Abiy stepped from an Ethiopian Airlines plane at the airport in Asmara to be greeted by Isaias, the two men embracing before they strode off along a red carpet.
Crowds lined the streets of the Eritrean capital cheering on the leaders’ convoy, waving the twinned flags of Ethiopia and Eritrea.
With Abiy’s comments later in the day, the meeting appeared to have achieved its touted aim of seizing “a spectacular opportunity to decidedly move forward peace for the good of our people,” as Abiy’s chief of staff Fitsum Arega put it earlier.
Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, later tweeted a photo of the two leaders huddled in discussion, promising the meeting would, “set the tone for rapid, positive changes on the basis of respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The re-establishment of diplomatic and trade ties after years of bitter separation could mean big benefits for both nations, and the wider Horn of Africa region, plagued by conflict and poverty.

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