by Habtamu Liben and
Wang Shoubao ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) --
Rapprochement among Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia
in 2018 has ignited hope of a new beginning as the Horn of
Africa region welcomes the coming of 2019, shaking off two
decades of armed standoff.
Eritrea and Somalia, which
have been blaming each other for supporting rebel and terrorist
groups, reestablished diplomatic relations, marking a new start
in bilateral ties.
Positive developments between Ethiopia and Eritrea ended two
decades of bitter armed standoff.
The two neighbors fought a bloody border war in 1998-2000,
killing an estimated 70,000 people from both sides.
In the latest indication of improved relations among the Horn
of Africa countries, the United Nations Security Council last
month lifted sanctions against Eritrea, which include an arms
embargo and other targeted sanctions.
The international community has welcomed the positive changes
in one of Africa’s most restive regions and vowed to provide
more support for the region.
The chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa
Faki Mahamat, in a statement last month, called for regional and
international support as the Horn of Africa countries normalize
their previously strained ties.
He urged regional leaders to sustain the momentum by taking
all steps required to deepen their cooperation, stressing that
the recent rapprochement is conducive to the shared objective of
peace and prosperity on the continent.
"These developments are a major contribution to the African
Union drive towards silencing the guns by 2020 and advancing
continental integration in the context of Agenda 2063 flagship
projects," Faki said, referring to the AU’s 50-year continental
UN Security Council Resolution 1907, which was passed in
2009, accused Eritrea of supporting al-Shabab terrorists in
In 2011 to 2013, the Security Council passed three more
resolutions the imposed additional sanctions on Eritrea.
The Ethiopian government, which had been a major proponent of
stiffer sanctions against its former regional arch-rival Eritrea
for the past two decades, was the first to congratulate Eritrea
on ending the sanctions.
"The lifting of sanctions will further enhance the
collaborative gains that have been achieved in the region over
the last few months," the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s Office said
in a statement.
"It will have far-reaching effects in improving the stability
of the Horn of Africa region and in building a lasting peace and
normalization of relations among the countries in the region,"
the statement added.
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo, who
welcomed the lifting of arms and other targeted embargoes on his
country’s former regional rival, said that the lifting of
sanctions was a result of "our collective request."
Describing the UN Security Council decision as a "helpful and
timely intervention," Farmajo also reiterated that the Horn of
Africa region is swiftly progressing toward "partnership and
Eritrea’s Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel praised
the contribution of regional neighbors to the lifting of the
"The government of Eritrea expresses its gratitude to all
friends of Eritrea who added their moral weight, and contributed
in different ways, to the lifting of the ignominious sanction,"
Gebremeskel said in a statement.
Eritrean Permanent Representative to the UN Amanuel Giorgio
said his country "is committed to working with all its neighbors."
"The peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and the
tripartite agreement between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, mark
the beginning of a new dawn," he said.
China’s permanent representative to the UN, Ma Zhaoxu, called
on the Security Council and the international community to
provide assistance to the countries in the Horn of Africa.
Ma said that the relations among countries in the Horn of
Africa have been continually improving over the past few months
and that the lifting of sanctions is conducive to the peace and
development in the region.
He also pledged that China will continue to work with the
international community to play a constructive role in achieving
peace, stability and development for the countries in the Horn
The process of regional rapprochement began on April 2 this
year, when Ethiopia’s newly elected Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
stressed his commitments to bringing about peaceful coexistence
between Ethiopia and its former arch-rival Eritrea.
"We are fully committed to reconcile with our Eritrean
brothers and sisters and extended an invitation to the Eritrean
government to start dialogue and establish rapport," Ahmed said
in his inaugural speech before members of both houses of the
Eritrea, once part of the Ethiopian federation before its
independence in 1993, was quick to respond to Ethiopia’s peace
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki agreed to start dialogue
with Ethiopia on the basis of previous peace agreements, which
Ethiopia refused to implement for nearly 27 years.
On Sept. 6, Ethiopia reopened its embassy in Asmara, the
Eritrean capital, after the reopening of Eritrea’s embassy on
July 16 in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
As tensions eased, telecom services and direct flights
between the two countries also resumed.
On Sept. 16, Eritrea’s Afwerki and Ethiopia’s Ahmed signed a
peace accord in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, reiterating
their commitment to sustaining the historic peace agreement that
ended two decades of armed standoff between the two east African
Just days ago, on Sept. 11, the two leaders celebrated the
traditional New Year together, and withdrew soldiers from the
two countries’ border areas.
Leaders of the two countries, in another bid to augment their
growing ties, agreed to enhance bilateral trade through
Eritrea’s port city of Assab to Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa.
A decision to build a pipeline linking Addis Ababa and Assab
was unveiled by the Ethiopian government and the United Arab
Emirates, which would allow landlocked Ethiopia to export crude
oil via the Eritrean port.
Ethiopia started petroleum test extraction from the Regional
Somali State in June.
In September, the Ethiopian Roads Authority announced its
plan to renovate the roadway connecting the two countries that
has fallen into disuse for more than two decades.
Habtamu Tilahun, who heads the Ethiopian Roads Authority,
said efforts are underway to build roads to help Ethiopia
utilize Eritrea’s ports.
Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia work towards regional
Rapprochement of states igniting hope in restive Horn of
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