Addis Ababa, July 18 (IANS) Ethiopia’s first direct commercial flight to Eritrea in 20 years took off on Wednesday, marking a further step in the two East African countries’ peace and reconciliation process after several decades of bitter enmity.
On July 9, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki agreed to settle border disputes, resume flights, begin joint efforts to develop Eritrean ports and open embassies in their respective capitals, the Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement cited by Efe news.
“The bird of peace has just flown to Asmara!” said Ethiopian Airlines, one of the biggest airlines in Africa, in a post to Twitter along with a photo of the Boeing 787 airliner taking off.
For the time being, Ethiopian Airlines will operate one daily round-trip flight between Addis Ababa and Asmara although it plans to establish multiple flights per day in the near future.
On Monday, Afwerki, who had not set foot in Addis Ababa since 1996, reopened his country’s Embassy in the Ethiopian capital.
Gaining access to Eritrea’s Red Sea ports has been a priority for land-locked Ethiopia’s new reformist Prime Minister since taking office in April and the diplomatic thaw was welcomed by the international community.
Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after years of armed struggle dating back to the 1960s and the two nations fought again from 1998-2000 in a brutal war that left hundreds of thousands dead on both sides.