By Elias Biryabarema and Maggie Fick
ADDIS ABABA - Eritrea has pulled troops back from the heavily militarized border with Ethiopia as a “gesture of reconciliation”, the pro-government Eritrean Press agency said on its Facebook page.
There was no immediate confirmation from the government in Asmara but the move would be consistent with rapidly improving ties between the two neighbors in the Horn of Africa who fought a war in 1998 in which tens of thousands died. A military stalement has persisted since then.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki signed an agreement in Asmara on July 9 to restore ties and have since taken steps to put that into practice including reopening embassies in each others countries.
“It is imperative for all those who care about the long-term stability and economic viability of the region to do everything they can to help the two countries move beyond the senseless war that wrought so much suffering on both peoples,” the agency said [L8N1UF2UR].
Earlier on Thursday, Ethiopia appointed its first ambassador to Eritrea in two decades, the state-affiliated Fana news agency said on Thursday. An online report from Fana said Redwan Hussien, formerly Ethiopian ambassador to Ireland, had become Addis Ababa’s representative in Asmara.
Abiy became prime minister in April and said he wanted to implement a peace deal that ended the war. The surprising move was part of a broader effort to reshape politics and the economy in Ethiopia, which is the second most populous country in Africa and has east Africa’s largest economy.
Better relations between the two countries could eventually give landlocked Ethiopia access to Eritrea’s ports and ease the political isolation of Eritrea.
Both leaders have visited each other and Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki this week reopened his country’s embassy in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia’s national carrier Ethiopia Airlines on Wednesday made its first flight to Asmara in two decades and was greeted by dancers waving flags and flowers as families separated by the war and the ensuing hostilities made an emotional reunion.