MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP)
- Eritrea and Somalia have agreed to restore diplomatic relations, both countries announced Monday in another thaw in the restive Horn of Africa region,
while Somalia's leader called for sanctions on Eritrea to be removed.
Eritrea's information minister shared the joint statement on Twitter as Somalia's president ended a historic three-day visit to one of the world's most closed-off nations. The countries have not had diplomatic
ties for nearly 15 years.
Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed called for the lifting of U.N. sanctions on Eritrea over its alleged support of the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group, which Eritrea has long denied.
"We urge all economic sanctions and embargo imposed on the people of Eritrea must be lifted so that the economic integration of the Horn of Africa region can be realized," Mohamed told a banquet hosted
by Eritrea's president Sunday night.
"Eritrea & Somalia will work in unison to foster regional peace, stability & economic integration," Eritrea's information minister Yemane Meskel said. He added: "Eritrea strongly supports the political
independence, sovereignty & territorial integrity of Somalia."
The visit by Somalia's leader, at the invitation of longtime President Isaias Afwerki, follows a stunning diplomatic thaw between Eritrea and neighboring Ethiopia after more than two decades. Ethiopia
under reformist new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has asked that the sanctions on Eritrea be dropped.
The U.N. chief has indicated the sanctions could be obsolete.
The changing relations in the Horn of Africa region are of both political and economic interest to the wealthy Gulf states just across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Already they have been jostling
for influence in the African nations along one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, including both Somalia and Eritrea. Landlocked Ethiopia also eyes both countries' ports as outlets for its fast-growing economy.
Somalia remains fragile under the threat of al-Shabab, which holds some rural areas and often carries out high-profile suicide bombings in the capital, Mogadishu. A truck bombing in October killed more
than 500 people in the deadliest attack in the country's history.
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