Date: Thursday, 26 July 2018
Is peace breaking out between the two neighbors who have been at war since 1998? Hopefully. The pledge made by Ethiopian PM Abiy, during his trip to Asmara, seems to be for real.
After 20 years of war, the two countries have decided to re-establish diplomatic relations during a historic trip to Eritrea by the Ethiopian PM, Abiy Ahmed. After a face-to-face meeting with Eritrean President Issaias Afewerki, the Ethiopian Prime Minister announced the reopening of embassies in the respective capital cities and, even more important, the reopening of borders.
«We agreed that air routes will open soon, so that ports are accessible, people can travel between our two countries and our embassies stay open», he said on Sunday, July 8.
The exchange of smiles and a hug between the two leaders were highly symbolic and unimaginable just a few weeks ago, due to the fierce tensions between the two enemy countries. Sunday’s meeting is the result of Addis Ababa’s policy when, last month, Abiy declared Ethiopia’s willingness to grant Eritrea a disputed border territory, that it is still occupying despite a 2002 ruling by a UN-sponsored independent international commission.
Ethiopia’s refusal had blocked bilateral relations, although both countries ended hostilities in 2000, after three years of war that caused 80,000 deaths. As soon as he came to power last April, the Ethiopian Prime Minister introduced a series of sweeping reforms, including a plan to restore bilateral relations between his country and Eritrea, which includes the settlement of the disputed border. Among these breakthroughs, at the beginning of June, he announced his intention to enforce the Algiers peace agreement signed in 2000 with Eritrea.
Welcomed by the Eritrean Head of State, this initiative led to the visit of a high-level Eritrean delegation to Addis Ababa at the end of June and the announcement of Abiyi’s upcoming visit to Asmara. An extended hand that was accepted by Asmara who invited a delegation from the other side of the border in June.
If everything seems finally ready for a historic peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea, now the Ethiopian Prime must convince a segment of his population that does not seem to warm up to his reconciliation project. The promise of Ethiopia’s withdrawal from the disputed area, that includes the symbolic town of Badme, which was granted to Eritrea in 2002, has not materialized yet.