Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed to reestablish key economic links following an unprecedented summit between the Horn of Africa nations’ leaders that marked the end of almost two decades of strife.
The announcement by the state-owned broadcaster Fana followed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s visit to the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on Sunday for talks with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and their decision to restore diplomatic relations.
Ethiopia is to resume using Eritrea’s ports, which have been closed to it since a 1998 to 2000 border war, and flights, telecommunications links and embassies are being re-established.
“To all Ethiopians and Eritreans, congratulations,” Abiy said during the visit in a television address broadcast in both countries. “There is no border between Ethiopia and Eritrea; instead we have built a bridge of love.”
The rapprochement between the former bitter enemies was another sign of sweeping change in Ethiopia since Abiy, 42, took office in April.
Facing unrest, protests and displacement of people that have threatened to derail a boom in Africa’s fastest growing economy, Abiy and his ruling party lifted a state of emergency and accelerated long-awaited market reforms.
With his trip to Asmara, Abiy has begun to close a bloody chapter in his nation’s history that left thousands of Ethiopian and Eritrean families divided.
“Moving forward, war is not needed between Ethiopia and Eritrea,” Abiy said in the broadcast. “What we need is to work hard and for peace to rapidly transform and repay the debt of the 20 years and transform the relations of the two countries to greater heights.”
Abiy’s administration has also announced plans to open up state monopolies, including sugar, airlines and telecoms to foreign investors, while opposition groups have begun to be tolerated and thousands of detainees released.
Until now, Ethiopia has been forced to rely on Djibouti and Sudan for access to the sea, but since Abiy came to office, the authorities in Addis Ababa have moved quickly to improve the nation’s transportation links to the outside world.
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