AFPADDIS ABABA (AFP-Jiji) — A two-decade war was declared over this week in an emotional reunion between Ethiopia and Eritrea, but analysts warn many hurdles remain to repair years of bitter relations despite the dizzying peace process.
The Horn of Africa nations cut ties after the outbreak of a 1998-2000 border war that killed 80,000 people and degenerated into a diplomatic stalemate after Ethiopia refused to cede land to Eritrea in violation of a United Nations ruling.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, 41, reversed that policy last month, paving the way for a historic meeting with Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki, 71 which ended in a declaration Monday that the “state of war ... has come to an end.”
The two nations have restored telephone communications for the first time in two decades and Ethiopian Airlines is set to begin passenger flights between the two capitals as early as next week.
But despite the diplomatic bonhomie, negotiating access to Eritrean ports for Ethiopian goods, demarcating the contentious border region and ensuring good relations will not be simple, analysts say.
“Certainly, we need to proceed with some caution. I think there is a long way to go, but ultimately everybody wants lasting peace in the region,” Horn of Africa researcher with Chatham House Ahmed Soliman told AFP.
Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict.
This move rendered Ethiopia landlocked, and the deterioration of relations after the outbreak of the war in 1998 forced Ethiopia to channel its sea trade through Djibouti.
The two countries have shown little signs of rapprochement since the signing of the Algiers peace agreement in 2000.