With hugs and cheers, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have met for the first time in more than 20 years amid a recent thawing in relations between the former East African rivals.
In a landmark visit, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed landed in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on Sunday 8 July, for a bilateral summit aimed at repairing relations between the two countries. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki warmly greeted Abiy at the airport.
This week’s summit aims to “further deepen efforts to bring about lasting peace,” said Abiy’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega. “Our two nations share a history and bond like no other,” he said on Twitter. “We can now overcome two decades of mistrust and move in a new direction.”
Upon arrival at Asmara, the Ethiopian Prime Minister was welcomed by Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki and other senior Eritrean government officials.
Video footage from the Ethiopian state television showed crowds dancing and singing for the two leaders at the Asmara International Airport.
In advance of Abiy’s arrival, Ethiopian Information Minister Meskel said the visit “heralds a new era of peace and cooperation”.
Following a private meeting between President Isaias Afwerki and PM Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia and Eritrea have agreed to restore diplomatic relations. The two leaders also attended a dinner and announced new measures.
Prime Minister Dr Abiy on the occasion 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.”
Moreover, the two countries have also agreed to restore a direct international telephone connection between them.
Ethiopian Premier further said the two leaders have “agreed to bring down the wall between us. Now there is no border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. That borderline has gone today with the display of a true love … love is greater than modern weapons like tanks and missiles.”
The Eritrean leader also expressed his delight about the new era of friendly relations between the two countries.
“The Eritrean people have today got the chance to express their true love and emotion for Ethiopians,” said Isaias.
“We can imagine that the decisions the prime minister of Ethiopia took were not a simple one. But we can assure you we will face the future together. We will work as one,” he added.