A delegation of top officials from Eritrea has arrived Tuesday in Ethiopia for the first peace talks in 20 years.
Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Sale and others were welcomed at the airport by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, signifying the importance of their visit.
The delegation came after Abiy, Ethiopia’s new, reformist leader, surprised his country earlier this month by stating that he fully accepts a peace deal from 2000 that ended the border war with Eritrea that killed tens of thousands of people. Although outright fighting has stopped, the peace agreement has not been implemented and relations between the two countries have remained tense. Ethiopia and Eritrea have not opened diplomatic relations and their forces have engaged in skirmishes a number of times in recent years.
The Eritrean visit is the first since the war broke out in 1998 and came after conciliatory gestures were made by both sides aimed at ending one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts. Ethiopia had refused to accept the agreement’s terms that gave Eritrea control of key locations, including the city of Badme, which Ethiopia continues to control.
No further details have been announced about negotiations between the two Horn of Africa countries, but a dinner reception is scheduled for the Eritrean visitors at the Ethiopian national palace later Tuesday.
Eritrea’s longtime President Isaias Afwerki noted the “positive signals” recently and announced he would send the delegation to “gauge current developments directly and in depth” and plan future steps.