By Selam Gebrekidan/ New York Times
July 8, 2018
For the first time since a brutal border war in the late 1990s left a violent rift between Ethiopia and Eritrea, leaders of the two nations embraced on an airport tarmac on Sunday, hinting at a new era for the two countries.
Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, led his country’s first state visit to Eritrea since the war broke out in 1998 and sat for a meeting in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, with President Isaias Afwerki.
At a state dinner on Sunday evening, Mr. Abiy announced that he had agreed with the Eritrean president to “resume the services of our airlines, to get our ports working, to get our people to trade and to open our embassies again.”
Direct telephone lines had been restored between the two countries on Sunday afternoon for the first time in two decades.
“There is no longer a border between Eritrea and Ethiopia, because a bridge of love has destroyed it,” Mr. Abiy said at the dinner.
Mr. Abiy surprised his nation last month when he announced that Ethiopia would “fully accept and implement” a 2000 peace deal that was supposed to end the border conflict with Eritrea.
More than 80,000 people have died in the war, according to some estimates, and the Ethiopian prime minister was among thousands who fought on the front lines.
Ethiopia, which has been a landlocked nation since Eritrea achieved independence in the early 1990s, has a strategic interest in a key Eritrean port, Assab, which it had heavily relied on before the start of the border war. The United Arab Emirates has used a military base in Eritrea to deploy its soldiers for the war in Yemen, which sits across the Red Sea from Eritrea.