Eritrea to Send Delegation to Ethiopia for Peace Talks

by Zelalem

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea said on Wednesday that he would send a delegation to neighboring Ethiopia for peace talks for the first time since 1998, when a border war broke out and left tens of thousands of people dead.

The announcement came after Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, took a major step this month toward calming tensions by saying that the government would fully accept the terms of a peace agreement with Eritrea signed in 2000.

Eritrea, one of the world’s most closed-off nations, has been ruled by Mr. Afwerki since gaining independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after years of rebel warfare. It has become a major source of migrants fleeing toward other African nations, Europe and Israel in recent years, and has been criticized by human rights groups for its harsh military conscription laws.

Mr. Afwerki noted “positive signals” in recent days from Ethiopia and said the delegation would “gauge current developments directly and in depth” to plan future steps. He spoke during a Martyrs Day celebration in the capital, Asmara, but did not say when the delegation would travel.

The countries have skirmished a number of times over the past two decades, with Ethiopia refusing to accept the 2000 agreement’s provisions for handling locations claimed by both countries.

The decision to fully accept the peace deal was the biggest and most surprising yet announced by Mr. Ahmed, who took office in April.

“The suffering on both sides is unspeakable because the peace process is deadlocked. This must change for the sake of our common good,” Mr. Abiy’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, said at the time of the announcement, in early June.

Ethiopia has said its decision was aimed at ending the stalemate and rejuvenating ties with Eritrea, which said shortly after Mr. Ahmed’s announcement that it had always accepted the terms of the peace deal.

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