Eritrea president hails thaw in Ethiopia relations


Eritrea President Isaias Afwerki said history was being made as he started his first visit to Ethiopia in more than two decades, days after the neighbours declared an end to their “state of war”.

Arriving for three days of meetings, Isaias was greeted warmly at the airport by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and thousands lined Addis Ababa’s main thoroughfare, sporting T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of both leaders.

The visit comes days after Abiy visited Eritrea and signed a pact on resuming ties, a move that ended a near 20-year military stand-off after a border war.
“Words cannot express the joy we feel now. History is being made as we speak,” Isaias said.
“We are one people – whoever forgets that does not understand our situation.”

Abiy introduced Isaias to guests at the lunch as an “esteemed and missed guest”.

Eritrea formally seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 after a long battle for independence, but the countries went to war in 1998 over a border dispute. Though a peace deal was signed two years later, Ethiopia refused to implement it, saying it wanted more talks.

Reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea could change politics and security in the volatile Horn of Africa region, which hundreds of thousands of young people fled in search of safety and opportunities in Europe.

During the lunch, Abiy presented Isaias with a gold ring, while a painter handed Isaias a giant portrait of the Eritrean leader.

An Ethiopian government spokesman said Isaias and his delegation would visit an industrial park in Hawassa. Isaias was due to give a speech in Addis Ababa on Sunday.

Eritrea and Ethiopia have so far agreed to open embassies, develop ports and restart flights.

Eritrea is due to reopen its embassy in Addis Ababa on Monday for the first time since 1998.

Eritrea Information Minister Yemane Meskel said on Twitter Isaias was accompanied by several ministers and senior government officials.