Ethiopia and Eritrea enter new chapter of cooperation following historic peace deal

16 Jul 2018

The 9th July 2018 will go down history as the day Ethiopia and Eritrea declared an end to the state of war that existed between the two nations.

In a historic visit to Asmara, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea signed a Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship.

This landmark visit follows weeks of deliberations between the two nations, starting with Ethiopia fully accepting the Algiers Peace Agreement signed in 2000 and the subsequent official visit by a high-level Eritrean delegation led by Foreign Minister Osman Saleh for peace talks in June.

At a dinner hosted in honour of the visiting Eritrean delegation in June. PM Abiy noted that this historic occasion was a “new dawn in Ethio-Eritrean relations.”

Expressing his gratitude for the PM’s olive branch, President Isaias Afewerki reciprocated, reiterating that Ethiopia and Eritrea share lots of commonalities that run the gamut from culture and languages to politics and the economy.

PM Abiy is received by President Isaias Afewerki in Asmara

 

…restoration of diplomatic, economic and social ties

PM Abiy arrived in the Eritrean capital on 8th July, warmly welcomed by President Isaias Afewerki, for a bilateral summit, the first of its kind in 20 years, aimed at repairing relations between the two countries and deepening people-to-people ties.

In unimaginable scenes, thousands of Eritreans lined the streets of Asmara in song and dance, cheering to welcome PM Abiy and his delegation.

Scores of Eritreans flock the street to greet PM Abiy and his delegation

Following discussions between the two leaders, it was agreed that diplomatic relations between the two nations would be restored.

Prime Minister Abiy, in a speech at the National Palace said, “We have agreed to reopen embassies in our respective countries, allow our people to visit each other’s cities and allow our airlines and ports to operate freely.” Flights will begin on 18th July.

“Ethiopians can visit their families, friends and loved ones in Eritrea; similarly, Eritreans can visit their Ethiopian families and friends,” the Premier said, adding that it has been “agreed to bring down the wall between us.”

“Now there is no border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. That border line has gone today…love is greater than modern weapons.”

“Love can win hearts, and we have seen a great deal of it today here in Asmara.

“War is not an option for the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia. What we need now is love.”

The Eritrean leader also expressed his delight about the new era of friendly relations between the two countries:

“I congratulate Abiy [Ahmed] for arriving at this point for which he has gone a long way. With the coming of Ahmed, I can understand the true feeling of the Eritrean public to the people of Ethiopia. I want to congratulate the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

“We can imagine that the decisions the prime minister of Ethiopia took was not a simple one. But we can assure you we will face the future together. We will work as one,” he said.

…President Isaias’ visit to Ethiopia cements ties

Days after signing the historic peace agreement, an Eritrean delegation led by President Isaias Afewerki made a landmark visit to Ethiopia on 14th July to further cement ties between the two nations.

Addis Ababa residents lined the streets of Addis Ababa to welcome President Isaias

President Isaias was warmly welcomed by high ranking government officials, including Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed and Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen. Thousands of residents waving Ethiopian and Eritrean flags lined the streets of Addis Ababa, from Bole International Airport to the National Palace, to welcome President Isaias, whose motorcade was escorted by traditional horsemen.

Prime Minister Abiy hosted a State Luncheon in honour of President Isaias at the National Palace, where President Isaias was honoured with a surprise gift of a horse, a shield and a spear by Oromia Regional State President, Lemma Megersa.

A spear and a shield are the most prized possessions of a traditional Oromo warrior.

“[Ethiopia and Eritrea] are no longer people of two countries. We are one.”

In a speech he made during the luncheon, President Isaias said, “Words cannot express the joy we are feeling now. History is being made as we speak.”

…celebrating peace and harmony

A key cultural dinner and concert was held at the Millennium Hall on 15th July dedicated to celebrating the peace and harmony between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Addressing thousands of guests who were in attendance, PM Abiy said, “Peace is the mother of freedom and freedom in turn is the mother of prosperity”. The premier said the value of peace and freedom is equated with the value of health, he said, and the value of health is often overlooked when we are healthy, while its value is fully appreciated when we are sick. Equally, he said, the value of peace and freedom is often measured differently in times of peace and of war.

On his part, President Isaias, speaking in Amharic, said, “I am glad to convey the message of peace and love of the people of Eritrea to the people of Ethiopia”. He added, “We are determined to go ahead with such momentum of peace and love”.

“We will not let anyone spoil our peace and love as well as mutual growth and development,” he said.

During the three-day visit, the delegation also visited the Hawassa Industrial Park. While in Hawassa, PM Abiy hosted President Isaias over a ‘cheko’ and ‘genfo’ breakfast, traditional cuisine of the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia. He was also gifted a horse and a camel, which are national symbols in the two countries.

…Eritrean Embassy in Addis Ababa reopened

To mark the conclusion of the three-day visit, the Eritrean Embassy in Addis Ababa was reopened on 16th July by Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki, in the presence of Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed and other senior government officials.

The two leaders jointly raised the Eritrean flag as a military band played the Eritrean national anthem.

…Ethiopian Airlines to resume flights

Ethiopian Airlines has resumed daily Addis Ababa-Asmara flights as of 18th July 2018.

Group CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam said: “We at Ethiopian feel an immense honour and joy to resume scheduled flights to Asmara after 20 years, following the visit to Eritrea by H.E. PM Abiy Ahmed. With the opening of a new chapter of peace and friendship between the two sisterly countries, we look forward to starting flights to Asmara with the B787, the most technologically advanced commercial aircraft, with unparalleled on-board comfort.

The resumption of air links will play a critical role in boosting the overall political, economic, trade and people-to-people ties between the two countries.

Thanks to Ethiopian’s extensive network of more than 114 international destinations across 5 continents, our flights to Asmara will avail best connectivity options to the vast Eritrean diaspora community across the world and will boost the flow of investment, trade and tourism into Eritrea.

Very quickly, we plan to operate multiple daily services and to start cargo flights in view of the huge market potential between the two sisterly countries.”

…International phone connection restored

Direct international telephone connection between the two countries was restored on 9th July, with Ethiotelecom sending messages to its subscribers announcing that connections between Ethiopia and Eritrea have resumed.

…National committees to be established

In a press conference following the visit, Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu of Ethiopia said that the two nations are to establish national committees in the economic, political, security and military fields.

“The national committees…will work out the exact time and date of the implementation plan… We’ve already established two commissions headed by the respective foreign ministers of both countries,” the Minister said, adding that “sub-committees will work out in detail when and how each and every issue will be implemented.”

On 5th June, the executive committee of the ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) passed a decision expressing commitment to an unconditional implementation of the year 2000 Algiers peace agreement with Eritrea, which a technical committee will oversee.

The agreement ended a two-year border war (1998-2000) that killed about 70,000 people, but a tense armed standoff continued, with the two countries engaging in occasional skirmishes.

…Ethiopia requests lifting of Eritrea sanctions

Upon arrival in Addis Ababa on 9th July, Prime Minister Abiy held a meeting with visiting UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, where Ethiopia officially submitted a request for the United Nations to lift sanctions imposed on Eritrea.

The UN Security Council imposed sanctions against Eritrea in 2009 for its ties to Somalia extremist groups.

Mr Guterres expressed his hope that the Security Council would soon lift the sanctions, saying “If the reasons that led to the sanctions will no longer exist …they will naturally become obsolete.”

 

The peace declaration specifies five pillars, and states that:

  1. The state of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has come to an end. A new era of peace and friendship has been opened.
  2. The two governments will endeavour to forge intimate political, economic, social, cultural and security cooperation that serves and advances the vital interests of their peoples.
  3. Transport, trade and communications links between the two countries will resume; diplomatic ties and activities will restart.
  4. The decision on the boundary between the two countries will be implemented.
  5. Both countries will jointly endeavour to ensure regional peace, development and cooperation.

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