ADDIS ABABA: Two land border crossings between Ethiopia and Eritrea were reopened on Tuesday for the first time in 20 years, crowning a rapid reconciliation between the former bitter enemies.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki attended ceremonies at the eastern and western ends of the border, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebre Meskel said on Twitter.
The ensuing cold war stymied development and trade, and undermined regional security, but in a surprise move earlier this year, Abiy began peace overtures, which were welcomed by Eritrea.
Key to this was Abiy’s acceptance in June of a UN-backed court ruling in 2002 demarcating the contested border and handing back some occupied territory to Eritrea, including the disputed town of Badme.Abiy’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, said the visit was, "to celebrate the New Year with members of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Defence Forces following the full normalisation of the relations between the two countries."
At Zalambessa, soldiers manning the crossing on a rough road that cuts through the shared no man’s land together dismantled piles of sandbags while a red carpet was rolled over the potholes and flags were raised for the border’s ceremonial reopening.
A live broadcast on Ethiopian state television showed a large cheering crowd celebrating the reopening of the road with soldiers and civilians from both countries dancing together and greeting one another.