Leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea to Meet Soon, Ministry Says

(Bloomberg) -- The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea will meet soon, Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry said, the latest sign of thawing relations between the Horn of Africa nations at odds since a border war two decades ago.

A meeting between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki would cap landmark talks that began this month between officials from the two countries that fought a 1998-2000 war in which about 100,000 people died. Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 after decades of conflict.

The rapprochement began after Abiy became premier in April and the ruling party’s politburo pledged to implement a long-delayed peace deal. It’s among the sweeping changes enacted by Africa’s youngest leader as he seeks to quell simmering political dissent and retain Ethiopia’s momentum as the continent’s fastest-growing economy. The forthcoming meeting was reported by Ethiopia’s Fana Broadcasting Corp., which cited Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Tuesday’s visit to Ethiopia by an Eritrean delegation as “a first concrete step in the process of normalizing relations between the two countries.” Diplomatic overtures to resolve their dispute “will have a far reaching positive impact on the whole region,” Guterres’ spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said Thursday in a statement.

Ethiopia’s politburo said on June 5 it would finally implement the 2000 Algiers Agreement that ended the war. Ethiopia previously refused to recognize a monitor’s findings on ownership of the disputed border town of Badme.

‘Fertile Ground’

This week’s visit to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, by Eritrean officials including Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Ghebreab “paved fertile ground to restore peace between the two countries,” Workneh was quoted by Fana as saying.

Isaias, who has ruled Eritrea, a one-party state, since independence, said last week that the delegation would “gauge current developments directly and in depth as well as to chart out a plan for continuous future action.”

In another domestic reform, Ethiopia’s parliament on Thursday passed a law on procedures to grant amnesty to people convicted of political offenses, treason and inciting conflict who apply within a certain time-frame, Fana reported. Thousands of detainees have been pardoned since a politburo decision in January.

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