Eritrea, Ethiopia Reopen Border Crossings for First Time in 20 Years

Eritrea, Ethiopia Reopen Border Crossings for First Time in 20 Years

Tuesday, 11 September, 2018 - 09:45
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki reopen border crossings between their countries. (AFP file photo)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Eritrea and Ethiopia reopened on Tuesday border crossings for the first time in 20 years as they continue to put behind them years of conflict.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki opened the frontier at Bure, a region that saw some of the fiercest fighting during their 1998-2000 war.

Tensions over the border burned on after that fighting ended - until Abiy offered to end the military standoff this year as part of a package of reforms that have reshaped the political landscape in the Horn of Africa and beyond.

Isaias and Abiy “officially opened the Debay Sima - Burre border point between z two countries for road transport connectivity,” Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Meskel said in a tweet.

The two leaders then opened the Serha-Zalambesa connection in a second ceremony, footage on Ethiopia’s state TV showed.

The leaders also celebrated Ethiopian new year together at border with their troops, Fitsum Arega, Abiy’s Chief of Staff, said on Twitter.

Pictures on Fitsum’s Twitter account showed the leaders talking and walking side by side, Abiy in camouflaged military fatigues and Isaias wearing sandals and a safari suit.

Since signing an agreement in Asmara on July 9 to restore ties, the Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders have moved swiftly to end two decades of hostility.

Eritrea reopened its embassy in Ethiopia in July, and Ethiopia reciprocated last week.

The two countries have resumed flights. Eritrea has agreed to open up its ports to its landlocked neighbor and last week announced plans to upgrade a connecting road.

Residents on another part of the border said Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers started clearing landmines on Monday.

Abiy on Monday told a new year's eve concert crowd of thousands in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, that "as of today, Ethiopian and Eritrean people will prosper together and march in unison. ... The last five months have brought hope and reconciliation."

The Ethiopian new year has roots in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and is related to the Julian calendar. Eritrea has used the Gregorian calendar since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

The reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been warmly welcomed by the international community and has led to a series of further thaws in the fragile Horn of Africa region, with Eritrea resuming diplomatic ties with both turbulent Somalia and the small but strategic port and military nation of Djibouti.

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