Global Council for Tolerance and Peace

Eritrea sending delegation to rival Ethiopia for peace talks

Eritrea’s president announced he is sending a rare delegation to neighboring Ethiopia for peace talks, days after Ethiopia’s new prime minister took a major step toward calming deadly tensions with its decades-long rival.

This is the first such delegation since 1998, when a border war erupted between the countries and they cut off diplomatic relations.

Eritrea’s longtime President Isaias Afwerki noted “positive signals” in recent days from Ethiopia and said the delegation will “gauge current developments directly and in depth” to plan future steps. He spoke during a Martyrs Day celebration in the capital, Asmara.

Ethiopia early this month made the surprise announcement that it will fully accept the terms of a peace agreement with Eritrea signed in 2000 to end the two-year border war that killed tens of thousands. The countries have skirmished a number of times since then.

The decision to fully accept the peace deal was the biggest reform yet announced by Ethiopia’s young new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who once fought in Badme. “The suffering on both sides is unspeakable because the peace process is deadlocked. This must change for the sake of our common good,” Abiy’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, said at the time.

town of Badme, which it still holds

The decision to fully accept the peace deal was the biggest reform yet announced by Ethiopia’s young new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who once fought in Badme. “The suffering on both sides is unspeakable because the peace process is deadlocked. This must change for the sake of our common good,” Abiy’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, said at the time.

Eritrea shortly after the announcement replied that it had always accepted the peace deal.

Fitsum on Twitter said Abiy had “thanked and congratulated” Eritrea’s president for the positive response and “expressed his readiness to welcome warmly and with considerable goodwill” the Eritrean delegation.

Eritrea’s ambassador to Japan, Estifanos Afeworki, on Twitter said the delegation will pursue “constructive engagement.” Eritrea’s ambassador to Kenya, Byene Russom, called it a “new chapter of peace and reconciliation between the Eritrean and Ethiopian people.”

The spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters that “obviously we’ll see what happens but we clearly welcome this development.” He said the world body stood ready to play a role in assisting the two parties.

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