The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea met each other on Sunday morning in Eritrea’s capital Asmara in a historic summit that could bring an end to a near 20-year military stand-off, Reuters reported. Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki welcomed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the Asmara airport. The two leaders then headed to the presidential palace.
Abiy, who took office in April, has accepted a Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission ruling awarding disputed territory to Eritrea, BBC reported. Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a lengthy conflict but within five years fighting broke out between the neighbours over remote border areas, including the town of Badme. Around 80,000 people were killed in the war.
“This historic official visit, and the summit that will take place ... heralds a new era of peace and cooperation,” Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane G Meskel wrote on Twitter. “A truly historic moment with memorable watershed events.”
“Our two nations share a history and bond like no other,” Prime Minister Abiy’s chief of staff wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning. “We can now overcome two decades of mistrust and move in a new direction.”
Abiy has also pardoned dissidents, lifted a state of emergency and promised to partly privatise important state-owned firms.
A high-level delegation from Asmara visited Addis Ababa last month for the first time since 1998, when the conflict erupted. The two countries did not have diplomatic relations although Asmara has a permanent delegation at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Capital of Ethiopia.