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ION / ETHIOPIA/ERITREA : Can the Addis-Amara rapprochement last?

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Saturday, 17 February 2018

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA : Can the Addis-Amara rapprochement last?


Following the resignation of Desalegn, will talks between the two rival countries continue?
*The Indian Ocean Newsletter

According to information obtained exclusively by the Indian Ocean Newsletter, discussions are under way aimed at resolving the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Official communications between the two countries had already begun in the greatest secrecy and a meeting had been planned between the Eritrean president Issayas Afeworki and the former Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who stepped down on 15 January. The two governments are currently encouraging personal initiatives by accredited figures. Following the major overhaul of the country’s foreign policy (ION 1462), Ethiopia has set up a committee headed by the formerpresident, Girma Wolde-Giorgis, and by Medhane Tadesse, an expert in peace and security matters who is said to be close to the TPLF. He is also a professor at the African Leadership Centre at King’s College London. They are being supported in their efforts by Yacob Hailemariam, a retired academic and a former member of the opposition Coalition for Unity and DemocracyLidetu Ayalew, the former leader of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP, moderate opposition, ION 1451), and Memhir Gebrekidan Desta, a venerable Tigrayan activist.
This group’s task is to mobilise religious leaders – such as the Archbishop of Addis Ababa and Primate of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, and Teklemariam Asrat, aka Abune Mathias , the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church – to restart talks between the two rival countries. Preference is being given to these religious networks as a way of bypassing the politicians and the soldiers. According to our information, this initiative has received the unofficial support of the United States and the European Union, but it has been agreed that these two parties should not involve themselves directly in this new undertaking. However, the Italian government has agreed to participate in defining the definitive border and in developing infrastructure in the border regions. In late January, Medhane Tadesse and some members of his committee travelled to the town of Shire close to the Ethiopian-Eritrean border to prepare the ground for discussions, and the first session of meetings is scheduled for mid-September 2018 in the strategic border towns of Zalambesa and Gerahusurnay, which will solely involve the local inhabitants and traditional leaders. It will be followed by another official meeting in Addis Ababa.

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