A High-level Eritrean Delegation visits Ethiopia

2A High-level Eritrean Delegation visits Ethiopia A high-level Eritrean delegation to Ethiopia, headed by Eritrean Foreign Minister and Envoy to the African Union Osman Saleh, and Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebreab, arrived in Addis Ababa, on Tuesday this week (June 26) for a three-day visit. It was the first such visit for twenty years. It followed Prime Minister Dr. Abiy’s “olive branch”, extended to the Government of Eritrea with the view to ending the stalemate between the two countries that sustained for over eighteen years, as well as President Isaias’ positive response to Ethiopia’s call for peace, reconciliation and dialogue. It was just over two weeks ago, on June 5, that Ethiopia announced its commitment to implement the Algiers Agreement and the decisions of the Ethio-Eritrea Border Commission unconditionally in order to resolve problems with Eritrea in a peaceful manner. Prime Minister Abiy again underlined this resolve last week (June 18) when he stressed that it was time to put an end to the situation between the two countries and bring jobs and prosperity to the people living along the border. Eritrea’s President Isaias, speaking last week on the occasion of the celebration of Martyrs Day in Asmara, and referring to the “positive signals issued in these past days”, announced he would send a delegation to Addis Ababa. He said events and developments that had unfolded in the region in general and in Ethiopia in particular warranted appropriate attention. “For this reason, and outside any myopic considerations of public relations stunts and advantages,” he said, “we will send a delegation to Addis Ababa to gauge current developments directly and in depth as well as to chart out a plan for continuous future action.” Expressing his gratitude for President Isaias’ positive response to his olive branch, the Prime Minister reiterated the fact that Ethiopia and Eritrea shared lots of commonalities, from culture and languages to politics and economy. He also referred to the unwanted intergenerational repercussions of wars: “wars consume time, human lives and above all, minds”, adding, “wars should not be the heirlooms we pass on to posterity. The high-level Eritrean delegation that arrived at Bole International Airport on Tuesday (June 26) was, therefore, aiming to take part in a constructive engagement with Ethiopia in the bid to restore and normalize relations between the two countries. The delegation was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and Foreign Minister Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu. Several scholars, artists, religious leaders and cultural troupes were also present at the colorful welcoming ceremony in honor of the delegation whose members were garlanded with flowers. The flags of both countries fluttered from lampposts in Addis Ababa along with a banner reading “Welcome!” In his remarks, the Prime Minister suggested that flights to Asmara might soon start: “For Ethiopians who have longed for heading to Massawa for a stroll, I call on you to be ready as Ethiopian Airlines will start services there soon,” adding, “Artists, prepare yourselves since we will celebrate the Ethiopian New Year in both Asmara and Addis Ababa.” Eritrea’s Foreign Minister, Osman Saleh said, “Today is a day of joy because two identical peoples and two generations have been separated throughout that period. But through struggles, we have opened the door of peace.” Following talks with the delegation, Prime Minister Dr. Abiy hosted a dinner in honor of the Eritrean delegation to Ethiopia at the National Palace in the evening. Religious leaders, athletes and invited guests attended the event. The Prime Minister called attention to the fact that the historic occasion marked a new dawn in Ethio-Eritrean relations, adding that the “black curtain” has now been torn, and this offered a new chapter of relations between the two sisterly countries. He said, “Today is a special day for both Eritreans and Ethiopians; we want to have and build peace with all our neighbors, especially with Eritrea.” His message, he said, to the people of both countries was a message of solidarity and collaboration and he stressed the need to further expand “this hard earned and historic journey into a far broader peace.” “Our desire is to love rather than hate. What we miss is to hug our brothers in Asmara. If we are in love, then the other things are minor. And if we do that, we might not need a border. Our neighborliness is sharing things and drinking coffee together.” The head of the delegation, Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh, noted the warm welcome accorded to his delegation by Prime Minister Dr. Abiy and expressed his satisfaction at the historic event. He said: “This is now time for peace and the joy here in Addis at this historic event reflects the same in Asmara too,” adding, “We are brothers and sisters; we are one and same people.” On Wednesday (June 27) Foreign Minister Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu accompanied the Eritrean delegation to Hawassa, the seat of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State. The Eritrean Delegation was warmly welcomed by regional officials on arrival at Hawassa Airport. During their tour of the town, the delegation visited various development projects in Hawassa, and experts from the Ethiopian Investment Commission provided a tour of Hawassa Industrial Park, the epitome of the future of Ethiopia’s industrial transformation. Foreign Minister Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, said on Thursday (June 28) that the Eritrean delegation’s visit to Addis Ababa provided a fertile basis to restore peace between the two countries. The Minister said that the two countries would soon hold a leaders-level meeting.