Ethiopian leader visits Asmara for historic peace talks

  • Ethiopian leader visits Asmara for historic peace talks

Ethiopian leader visits Asmara for historic peace talks

Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki warmly welcomed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed when he landed at Asmara airport.

Fana television reported the news on its Twitter feed, saying the news was confirmed by Ethiopia's foreign affairs minister, Dr Workneh Gebeyhu.

Quoting from a "Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship", Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said on Twitter the "state of war that existed between the two countries has come to an end".

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

President Uhuru Kenyatta has lauded the handshake between the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia in Asmara. The two men embraced before they walked down a red carpet.

The meeting was the first of its kind between leaders of the two Horn of Africa neighbors since their war 1998-2000 war in which around 80,000 people died. Eritrea was part of Ethiopia until 1993, when it declared its independence in a referendum.

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

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is welcomed by Erirea's President Isaias Afwerki as he disembarks the plane.

"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 an official dinner.

For the first time in two decades, a direct global telephone connection between Ethiopia and Eritrea was also restored. The two leaders spoke of love between their countries and announced the end of the longstanding border war. Following discussions between Abiy and Isaias, the two leaders announced that flights will resume, embassies will be reopened, and that landlocked Ethiopia would be able to utilize Eritrea's seaports. He did not identify which port. He said the Ethiopian leader's visit was "history in the making" and had "set the tone for rapid, positive changes".

However, the sides did not make clear whether the most immediate issue - Abiy's pledge to finally implement all terms of a 2000 peace deal with Eritrea - had been addressed.

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.

The unexpected rapprochement with Eritrea has won global plaudits for Abiy, who took office in April and announced last month said he would honour the terms of a peace deal after the 1998-2000 war.

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

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.

The shake-up by Abiy, a polyglot former soldier from the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia's largest, has won plaudits from Asmara to Washington and drawn comparisons to the 1980s "perestroika" reforms of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.