Eritrean, Ethiopian Officials Hold Landmark Talks on Peace Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Eritrean and Ethiopian government officials held talks about a stalled peace deal for the first time since a conflict between the two countries ended almost two decades ago.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is seeking to normalize relations with neighboring Eritrea as part of a broader program of reforms he’s initiated since taking office two months ago. He’s also announced plans to open up the Africa’s fastest-growing economy to foreign investors and also lifted a state of emergency imposed after the snap resignation of his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, in February.

“The new developments in Ethiopia augur well for the resolution of the frozen boundary conflict and durable peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia,” Andebrhan Welde Giorgis, a former member of Eritrea’s ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice and now an independent analyst, said by phone from Brussels. “At the same time, the winds of change blowing in Ethiopia could also cross over and usher in a new democratic dispensation in Eritrea.”

Eritrean, Ethiopian Officials Hold Landmark Talks on Peace Deal

Officials including Yemane Ghebreab, an adviser to Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, and Foreign Minister Osman Saleh, arrived in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Tuesday afternoon, Shamble Tillahun, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government communications office, said by phone from the city. Images published by the Fana Broadcasting Corp. showed the officials holding talks with Abiy.

100,000 Killed

Ethiopia’s highest governing body said on June 5 it would fully implement the so-called Algiers Agreement signed in 2000 to formally end a two-year war between the two Horn of African nations that killed about 100,000 people. The deal was never implemented, with Ethiopia refusing to recognize a monitor’s findings on ownership of the disputed border town of Badme.

Eritrea, a one-party state that sits on a key shipping strait linking the Red Sea and Suez Canal, has been under United Nations sanctions since 2009, after allegations that Isaias’s government supports al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Somalia. The former rebel leader has ruled Eritrea since 1993, when it gained independence from Ethiopia.

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