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A 'Rapprochement of ties' among countries
ignites new hope in restive Horn of Africa

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The Horn of Africa, once considered Africa’s troubled region, has witnessed a new high in the relations among neighboring countries as leaders of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia declared new partnership initiative.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, stressed in a joint statement released after their two-day meeting in Ethiopia’ s northern city of Bahir Dar late Saturday that they would work towards the historic transformation of the Horn of Africa region towards peace and integration.

The three leaders’ commitment marked a new beginning to Africa’ s most restive region, which is long attributed for a deadliest war and the subsequent two-decade armed standoff between Ethiopia and Eritrea, terrorism in Somali as well as blame game among countries for supporting rebels and terrorist.

"The three leaders reviewed developments and achievements since the signing of Asmara joint declaration on friendship and comprehensive cooperation in September and noted with satisfaction the tangible and positive outcomes already registered and agreed to consolidate their mutual solidarity and support in addressing challenges that they face individually and collectively," the joint statement reads.

The three leaders’ latest meeting was a follow up to the previous discussion, and an eventual peace accord, that was held in September this year in Asmara, capital of Eritrea.

During the Asmara tripartite meeting, they had signed a Joint Declaration Agreement on Comprehensive Cooperation, which also followed by a tripartite summit on the enhancement of regional ties of partnership.

"Sharing close ties of geography, history, culture, religion and vital common interests the peoples of Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea need to further respect each other’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity," the joint declaration said.

After decades of hostility and rivalry, a recent thaw in relations between the three Horn of Africa nations is considered as a new beginning towards normalizing diplomatic relations in the troubled region.

Eritrea and Somalia that have been blaming each other for supporting rebel and terrorist groups, had recently commenced diplomatic relations, marking a new beginning among the two countries.

Recent positive developments between Ethiopia and Eritrea also came after two decades long bitter armed standoff since the two countries bloody two-year border war from 1998-2000, that killed an estimated 70,000 people from both sides.

After 20 years of hostility, the two countries resumed diplomatic relations on July 8, when Ethiopia’s PM Ahmed made a landmark visit to the Red Sea nation and a week after, Eritrea’s Afwerki paid a courtesy visit to Ethiopia.

Amid the easing tensions, telecom services between the two countries have resumed, embassies resumed diplomatic relations, and agreements were made to strengthen economic ties.

The two countries’ flag carriers - Ethiopian Airlines and Eritrean Airlines - have also started flights to Asmara and Addis Ababa respectively.

Leaders of the two countries, in another bid to augment their growing ties, had also agreed to increase the movement and amount of bilateral trade through Eritrea’s port city of Assab to landlocked Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

In addition to diplomatic relations, Ethiopia and Eritrea are also undertaking steps to strengthen cultural and people-to-people links between the two countries.

A cultural symposium, which was held last month here in Addis Ababa, had brought together 500 participants drawn from both countries, including senior government officials from both countries, who discussed various issues that include ways to enhance the cultural and linguistic ties as well as the need for cultural collaboration between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Peoples of the three countries - who shared similar socio-cultural traits and language, are also currently celebrating the normalization of ties among countries in the region.

With the re-opening of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border in September in the aftermath of the fast paced diplomatic rapprochement, Zalambessa and other Ethiopian entry points are busy serving as a gateway and meeting point in renewed commercial and cultural interaction between the two countries.

Fiyori Bizen, an Ethiopian mother of three living on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s border town of Zalambessa, is a member of the border community that are celebrating the new positive diplomatic ties.

Speaking to Xinhua in a recent interview, Bizen confirmed that her house has transformed from a shelter to one that is facilitating her new business of providing coffee drinks to travelers from both countries.

"I have an increasing customer list of drivers, regular commuters and soldiers from both countries, ever since my coffee drinks business opened a week ago," said Bizen.


Kenya Airways to launch daily flights to Somalia

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya Airways said Monday it plans to launch direct flights to Somali capital Mogadishu from Thursday as part of expansion to the Horn of Africa region.

Sebastian Mikosz, chief executive officer of Kenya Airways, said the airline will fly seven times weekly as it seeks to enhance intra-Africa air connectivity linking cities and facilitating movement of people, and thereby enhancing social and economic ties between the countries.

"The addition of this route to our network demonstrates our commitment to improving connectivity on the African continent, while creating new opportunities for corporates investors, traders and tourists," Mikosz said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

He said that the daily flight is aimed at meeting the growing travel demand by Somali travelers, government and non-government organization officials and a growing number of entrepreneurs from Kenya and around the region who are keen on seeking opportunities in the country.

According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the Horn of Africa nation is positioned as one of the largest export markets for Kenya.

In 2017, exports to Somalia increased by 33.5 percent, which equates to a value of some 10.7 billion Kenyan Shillings (about 107 million U.S. dollars).

Mikosz said the flight operated by Jambojet is scheduled to depart Nairobi at about 7:40 a.m. and depart Aden Adde International Airport, Mogadishu at 10:45 a.m. to arrive back in Nairobi at 1:00 p.m.

"We want to extend our network reach and make it convenient for our guests who work and invest in Somalia," he said.

With the demand for travel by traders to Somalia through Nairobi increasing, the launch of this route is expected to ease travel between the two cities that are the focal points of business in the two countries and spur commercial activities.

Passengers aboard an Ethiopian airplane arrive in Mogadishu | Coastweek

MOGADISHU (Xinhua) -- Passengers aboard an Ethiopian airplane arrive in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, Nov. 9, 2018. Ethiopia’s flag carrier Ethiopian Airlines (ET) on Friday launched thrice weekly direct passenger flights between Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, after 41 years break, adding momentum to increasing bilateral economic ties. XINHUA PHOTO - FEISAL ISSE

Ethiopian Airlines restarts Addis Ababa-Mogadishu flights
after 41 years, as Ethiopia-Somalia ties further deepen

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia’s flag carrier Ethiopian Airlines (ET) on Friday launched thrice weekly direct passenger flights between Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, after 41 years break, adding momentum to increasing bilateral economic ties.

Direct flights between Ethiopia and Somalia were suspended shortly after the outbreak of the 1977-78 border war between the two nations.

The launch of commercial flights between Ethiopia and Somalia, also came amid wider optimism in the Horn of Africa region and came after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed paid a state visit to Somalia in June, in a bid to boost political and economic ties between the two nations.

Speaking at the flight inaugural ceremony in Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Abdullahi Mohammed Warfa, deputy head of Mission in Somalia embassy to Ethiopia, said the flight resumption would help connect the large Somali diaspora to its motherland.

"We would like to request Ethiopia to continue its support on one hand and to continue to connect our people who are in Mogadishu and the rest of Somalia, connecting them with other destinations in the world," said Warfa.

Warfa also said he had a personal reason to celebrate the resumption of direct flights between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu, as the new flight route significantly cuts the air time he had to endure to travel between the two cities.

"When I was coming to Addis Ababa from Mogadishu, I used to go through Nairobi or Djibouti city or other places to come to Addis Ababa," he said.

"It took four to five hours to come to Addis Ababa, but now it was made easy and I will go in less than two hours, thank you, Ethiopian Airlines."

Warfa’s optimism was shared by Ali Adem Mohammed, Deputy Chairman of the Somalia community in Ethiopia, who said he hoped cargo flights will be added soon, supplementing the already launched passenger flights.

"This flight will further deepen the bond between Ethiopians and Somalians, I hope as next step ET will start cargo flights on top of the passenger flights," said Mohammed.

Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam, for his part emphasized the historical nature of the resumption of flights between Addis Ababa-Mogadishu and its potential economic benefits.

"Today, it’s a great day to restart a direct flight between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu after 40 years, today is a historical day.

"Trade, investment and tourism ties between Ethiopia and Somalia have been challenged by lack of adequate air connectivity," he said.

"The resumption of air services will promote will promote tourism, trade relations and investment between Ethiopia and Somalia, as well promote cross border investment and people-to-people relations," he further said.

GebreMariam told Xinhua that Ethiopian Airlines also plans to launch cargo flights to Mogadishu, with an eye to facilitate Somalia sea food exports to the rest of the world, China in particular.

"We have seen how sea food exports from the likes Madagascar and Comoros via our Addis Ababa International Airport to China has boosted their economies, Somalia will join this scheme soon," he further said.

Already, Ethiopian Airlines in October launched a freighter service from Norwegian capital Oslo to Guangzhou in southern China, transporting twice a week Norwegian sea food products to Chinese customers.


China urges international community to support Horn of Africa

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- Chinese Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ma Zhaoxu on Wednesday called on the Security Council and international community to provide constructive assistance to the countries in the Horn of Africa.

At a Security Council meeting on Somalia, Ma said that the relations between countries in the Horn of Africa have been continually improved over past few months.

Ambassador Ma said China hopes the countries in the region will actively seize the current favorable opportunity, strengthen dialogue and consultation, and work in tandem to properly resolve relevant issues.

In a unanimous vote, the Security Council adopted a resolution to lift a nearly decade-old arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Eritrea after the country’s recent rapprochement towards neighbors in the Horn of Africa.

The Chinese diplomat said the lifting of sanctions is conducive to the peace and development in the region.

Ma pledged that China will continue to work with the international community to play a constructive role in achieving peace, stability and development of the countries in the Horn of Africa.

The council imposed sanctions on Eritrea in 2009 for its support of Al-Shabaab insurgents in Somalia. The UN’s most powerful body slapped more sanctions on the Horn of African country in three other resolutions from 2011 to 2013.


Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia work towards regional merger



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