By Chase Lacy
By Chase Lacy
Rabat – The first Eritrean delegation to visit Ethiopia in two decades arrived in Addis Ababa Tuesday morning.
Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Sale, accompanied by the Eritrean president’s close advisor Yemane Gebreab, were greeted at the airport by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Eritrea, landlocked Ethiopia’s only route to the sea, fought a brutal three-decade war until they gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
Even though Asmara has maintained a permanent delegation at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Eritrea have not held diplomatic relations since 1998. That year conflict fomented once again with a bloody border war that killed 80,000 and displaced hundreds of thousands.
Hostilities were ended by the UN-backed 2000 peace agreement. However, Ethiopia has categorically refused to implement the deal until new reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rose to power.
Among his proposed reforms are more transparency in governance, the release of thousands of political prisoners arrested in a 2015 crackdown, opening state-owned companies to domestic and foreign investments, unblocking websites and channels, and honoring the 2000 peace agreement with Eritrea.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Ahmed, speaking to Parliament, said, “We are fully committed to reconcile with our Eritrean brothers and sisters and extend an invitation to the Eritrean government to start dialogue and establish rapport.”
Ahmed’s willingness to fully honor and implement the peace agreement means that Ethiopia will cede disputed border territories, such as the town of Badme, to Eritrea. Actual implementation may face opposition in some areas, such as local residents’ resistance to such a move.
There is widespread hope that restoring ties between the two nations will bring further stability to the region with economic ties and open the authoritarian Eritrean regime to reforms by ending the militarization of the border, the separation of families, and proxy wars