Addis Ababa, Sep 11 (IANS) The leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia on Tuesday officially reopened crossing points at their shared border for the first time in almost two decades, officials from the two countries said.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki met at Burre in the northwest corner of Eritrea as part of the ongoing diplomatic détente taking place this year after Ethiopia’s reformist Premier took office in April, Efe news reported.
Ahmed and Afwerki “officially opened the Debay Sima – Burre border point between the two countries for road transport connectivity. The two leaders were expected to arrive in (the Eritrean capital) Asmara and proceed to Serha – Zalambesa connection for a similar ceremony,” Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Meskel said on Twitter.
The minister also posted photos of both leaders in military fatigues surrounded by soldiers, as well as a road lined by civilian onlookers holding Eritrean flags on one side and soldiers holding Ethiopian flags on the other.
Ahmed’s chief of staff Fitsum Arega also posted a statement on Twitter celebrating the border opening, which he said “fully marked the radical transformation of the Ethio-Eritrea border into a frontier of peace and friendship”, along with photos of soldiers from both countries smiling and shaking hands.
The celebration was symbolically held on New Year’s Day in the Ethiopian Coptic Christian calendar.
On July 9, Ahmed and Afwerki had signed a joint declaration to officially end hostilities between the two East African nations and agreed to settle border disputes, resume flights, begin joint efforts to develop Eritrean ports and open embassies in their respective capitals.
Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after years of armed struggle dating back to the 1960s, but the two nations fought again in the brutal Eritrean-Ethiopian War from 1998-2000 that left hundreds of thousands dead on both sides.
However, Ethiopia refused to accept the final border stipulated by the Algiers Agreement, signed in 2000, and relations between the two countries had remained deadlocked until Ahmed became Prime Minister.