Direct telephone connection restored between long-time foes Ethiopia, Eritrea
Direct international telephone connection has been restored between Ethiopia
and Eritrea “for the first time after two decades”, an Ethiopian official said.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister’s chief of staff wrote the statement on Twitter after a summit between Prime
Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afkwerki began.
The meeting was the first of its kind between the leaders of the two neighbours and bitter rivals in the
Horn of Africa, who went to war with each other and broke off diplomatic relations in 1998.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will meet Prime Minister Ahmed on Monday evening in Addis Ababa.
UN sources in the Ethiopian capital said, the meeting comes the day after Ethiopia and Eritrea heralded an end
to a near 20-year military standoff.
Abiy and Afkwerki announced they would re-open their embassies in each other’s capitals, hailing a stunningly
swift rapprochement between bitter regional enemies.
The two leaders personally symbolised the breakthrough, embracing warmly and swaying side by side to live
traditional music at a lavish state dinner in the Eritrean capital.
The talks were the product of an unexpected peace initiative by Ethiopia’s new reformist
Ahmed, which could transform the Horn of Africa region, ending decades of animosity during which both
countries remained isolated and dominated by their security forces.
Eritrea’s long-time leaderAfwerki welcomed Ahmed at Asmara’s airport in the morning before they departed
for the State House for talks that lasted all day.
The men exchanged hands and a hug there, before departing for the State House for talks. Along the way,
they were cheered by thousands of Eritreans who flooded the streets and waved flags of both Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The two embraced again at the state dinner, hosted by Isaias and broadcast on both countries’ state television.
The meeting was the first of its kind between leaders of the two Horn of Africa neighbours since their war
of 1998 to 2000 in which around 80,000 people died.
Eritrea achieved independence from Ethiopia amicably in 1993 but the two countries swiftly became bitter enemies.
However, the sides did not make clear whether the most immediate issue — Abiy’s pledge to finally implement all
terms of a 2000 peace deal with Eritrea — had been addressed.
In early June, Ethiopia announced it would honour all the terms of the 2000 peace deal, suggesting it might be
ready to settle the border dispute.
Eritrea responded positively, sending a delegation to Addis Ababa for a meeting at which Abiy announced that
Ethiopian Airlines would resume flights to Eritrea.
Abiy, a 41-year-old former intelligence officer who took office in April, is pushing other bold reforms to open
Ethiopia up to the outside world after decades of security-obsessed isolation.
He has pardoned dissidents, lifted a state of emergency and pledged to partly privatise key state-owned firms.
Across the border, Eritrea is one of the world’s most isolated and repressive nations and has long used the
Ethiopian threat to justify hefty military spending and long-term military conscription, which has caused
hundred of thousands of young men to flee, mostly to Europe.