The relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea are poised for a major turn for the better with the meeting between their respective delegates in Addis Ababa on Tuesday.
Ethiopian Foreign ministry spokesman Meles Alem Monday confirmed that the Asmara delegation was expected in Addis Ababa for the historic meeting aimed at ending decades of hostility.
The sudden thaw in relations between the bitter foes follows an unexpected olive branch offered by new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Earlier this month, Mr Abiy said he would abide by a 2002 border ruling and withdraw from territory contested by the two countries.
Eritrea’s President Isaias Afeworki responded last week saying he would dispatch a delegation, “to gauge current developments directly and in depth as well as to chart out a plan for continuous future action”.
A former Ethiopian province, Eritrea voted for independence from its much larger southern neighbour in 1993. However, the two countries would soon go to war, between 1998-2000, that claimed an estimated 80,000 lives.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Since then, their relations have remained frosty, with shots occasionally fired across the border, amid accusations and counter-accusations of support to rebels.
The apparent detente has raised hopes of a normalisation of relations that might boost regional trade and ease tensions.
On Tuesday, twinned Eritrean and Ethiopian flags lined the main road to the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, where a red carpet was laid out and a brass band assembled.
Mr Abiy was expected to meet the Eritrean delegation on arrival.
Since taking office in April, the 42-year-old former cabinet minister and army officer has initiated unprecedented reforms that have been broadly welcomed, but have upset the status quo.
In addition to agreeing to cede the contested territory to Eritrea, Mr Abiy has released jailed journalists and opponents, admitted that security forces tortured dissidents and begun to open up the state-controlled economy.
The moves have boosted his popularity among Ethiopians, but upset certain elements, including those suspected to have made an attempt on his life last Saturday.
It remains unclear how much support Mr Abiy has within the secretive ruling Ethiopia People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, which wields absolute power.