Eritrea President Isaias Afwerki in Ethiopia for landmark visit

Isaias Afwerki arrives for three-day visit, as Eritrea and Ethiopia further cement unprecedented thawing of relations.

    Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki has arrived in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, for a three-day state visit, as part of an unprecedented softening of tensions between the neighbouring countries.

    Saturday's visit by Isaias, his first in 20 years, comes a week after Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made a landmark visit to Eritrea's capital, Asmara.

    "Words cannot express the joy we are feeling now. History is being made as we speak," Isaias said during a lunch hosted by Abiy. 

    "Lives have perished, but we are lucky to observe today ... We are one people - whoever forgets that does not understand our situation," he added. 

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    An agreement signed in Asmara by the two Horn of Africa nations on Monday formally ended a conflict that has been ongoing for more than two decades.

    The newly appointed reformist Abiy first instigated the peace overtures and restoration of relations in April. 

    Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting from Addis Ababa, said that there was a mode of jubilation in the Ethiopian capital.

    "People are really happy, although they cannot fully comprehend the speed that things have happened in the last month," he said.

    "Both countries have a lot to gain from the resumption of relations - Ethiopia more than Eritrea, as it is landlocked. Ethiopia is looking forward to using Eritrea's ports instead of using the port of Djibouti," he added.

    "We still do not know what will happen to the disputed lands between the two countries and to the people living on those lands."

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    Ethiopia's government spokesman said Isaias and his delegation would visit an industrial park in the southern Ethiopian town of Hawassa later on Saturday. Isaias was also 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's Information Minister Yemane Meskel said on Twitter that Isaias was accompanied by several ministers and other senior government officials.

    Abiy, who is also trying to bring stability to a country that has been torn by protests since 2015, survived a grenade attack last month. 

    As part of the thawing of relations, Ethiopian Airlines is due to resume commercial flights to Asmara on Wednesday. 

    Flags of Ethiopia and Eritrea seen side by side in the face of Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki's visit to Addis Ababa [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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