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Peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea

· The UN highlights the potential positive outcome of the agreement signed in Jeddah ·

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres described the peace agreement signed between Ethiopia and Eritrea in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia yesterday, as a sign of “hope for the region”. “I congratulate the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia on signing today the Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship, a strong wind of hope for the Horn of Africa”, Guterres said on his Twittter account.

Ethiopian leader Abiy Ahmed Ali and Eritrean leader Isaias Afewerki signed a new peace treaty defined as an Agreement in Jeddah, under the mediation of Saudi Arabia, the United Nations, the African Union and United Arab Emirates. The agreement ends 20 years of formal war which was never really resolved despite the nominal peace deal signed in 2000 between Afewerki and the then Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi.

According to a Saudi statement, the Jeddah agreement provides for the “restoration of normal relations between the countries, on the basis of the close bonds of geography, history and culture between the two nations and their peoples”. The peace deal also includes the opening of embassies in the nations’ respective capital cities, a return of connections and Ethiopia’s use of Eritrean ports.

The deal was the fruit of a rapprochement which began with the election of Abiy Ahmed as Prime Minister of Ethiopia. He had already expressed his “willingness to overcome tensions with neighbouring Eritrea”, in his swearing-in speech. Asmara’s authorities followed this by welcoming the call to peace.

Yesterday’s signing was the fourth part of a peace process which began in the spring with the first true act of thawing which was the historic event of the embrace between Ahmed and Afewerki in Asmara. That was followed by the signing of a joint Declaration in Asmara on 9 July, the resumption of diplomatic relations and the relaunching of trade.

On 11 September, the borders between the two countries were reopened and many families that had been separated for 20 years were able to embrace each other again. The first Ethiopian registered ship docked in Eritrea, and telephone communication and flights were resumed.

The state of war between the two nations had been caused by disputes over territories, among which was Ethiopia’s request for access to the sea, which was never resolved due to Addis Abeba’s refusal to accept the borders outlined by the United Nations.

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