Eritrea’s top diplomat in Ethiopia for historic talks

Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Sale, center-right, is welcomed by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center-left, upon the Eritrean delegation’s arrival at the airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (AP)
Updated 27 June 2018
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Eritrea’s top diplomat in Ethiopia for historic talks

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia rolled out the red carpet for Eritrea’s top diplomat on Tuesday as the two nations took the next step in a historic initiative aimed at ending decades of conflict and hostility.
The thaw between the foes who fought a bitter border war 20 years ago comes after an olive branch was dramatically offered by new Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed.
As Eritrea’s top diplomat Osman Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab landed at Addis Ababa’s airport, Abiy was there to greet them, leading the pair along a red carpet past traditional dancers, local celebrities and a brass band.
The welcome included Ethiopian culture and sports personalities, among them legendary long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie.
“The relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea is about more than the border. When we make peace, it will benefit all of east Africa,” Ethiopia’s foreign affairs spokesman Meles Alem said at the airport.
The meeting comes just three days after a blast at a rally attended by Abiy — a sign, analysts say, of the risks the 42-year-old prime minister has taken with a program that embraces the biggest reforms, at home and abroad, in a generation.
Earlier this month, Abiy said he would abide by a 2002 ruling, issued by a United Nations-backed commission, and withdraw from contested territory, including Badme, a town claimed by both sides.
Last week, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki responded, saying he would dispatch a delegation “to gauge current developments directly and in depth as well as to chart out a plan for continuous future action.”
He stopped short of calling it a peace delegation but an official visit alone marks a dramatic shift in relations long mired in suspicion and bloody hostility.
The last time Ethiopian and Eritrean troops fought head-on was just two years ago, with each side claiming victory in response to what they said was the other’s aggression.



A former province, Eritrea voted for separation from its much larger southern neighbor in 1993 following a three-decade independence war.
But just five years later, a new border war erupted between the two countries, killing around 80,000 people before it ended in a stalemate in 2000.
Ethiopia ignored a subsequent ruling that it should withdraw from territory awarded to Eritrea.
Since then, a tense standoff has persisted with both maintaining a war footing, shots occasionally fired and with each side backing the other’s rebels.
The apparent detente in recent weeks has raised hopes of a normalization of relations that might boost regional trade and ease tensions.
Their long cold war has stymied economic development, frozen political relations and helped justify domestic repression.


But on Tuesday, signs of an abrupt mood change were evident, with Eritrean and Ethiopian flags lining the main road to the airport alongside banners reading “Welcome” in Amharic and Tigrinya, the languages of the two countries.
Abiy was to host a dinner in honor of the Eritreans on Tuesday.
For both Abiy and Isaias, the potential reconciliation contains risks.
A grenade exploded at a rally addressed by Abiy on Saturday, a rare event in tightly-controlled Ethiopia.
The motive for the attack remains unknown but the pace of Abiy’s reforms — including the border concession to Eritrea — is a likely source of anger among some hard-liners in the ruling class and security services, say observers.
“The key thing to watch out for is Abiy’s ability to rise over the inevitable disappointment or sense of betrayal, to put it strongest, over the Eritrea decision,” Christopher Clapham of Britain’s Cambridge University said earlier this month, after Abiy’s surprise overture.
For his part, Isaias has long justified his restrictive rule, punishing military conscription and the jailing of dissidents as necessary to defend Eritrea against Ethiopian aggression.
His authoritarian leadership has left his country diplomatically isolated and burdened by sanctions, triggering an exodus of Eritreans, many of them taking the dangerous route to Europe.
However, his own strong-man position is largely unchallenged.
bur/ri/hmw


New Universe map unearths 300,000 more galaxies

Updated 42 sec ago
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New Universe map unearths 300,000 more galaxies

  • Discovery literally sheds new light on some of the Universe’s deepest secrets
  • More than 200 astronomers from 18 countries were involved in the study

PARIS: The known Universe just got a lot bigger.
A new map of the night sky published Tuesday charts hundreds of thousands of previously unknown galaxies discovered using a telescope that can detect light sources optical instruments cannot see.
The international team behind the unprecedented space survey said their discovery literally shed new light on some of the Universe’s deepest secrets, including the physics of black holes and how clusters of galaxies evolve.
“This is a new window on the universe,” Cyril Tasse, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory who was involved in the project, said.
“When we saw the first images we were like: ‘What is this?!’ It didn’t look anything at all like what we are used to seeing.”
More than 200 astronomers from 18 countries were involved in the study, which used radio astronomy to look at a segment of sky over the northern hemisphere, and found 300,000 previously unseen light sources thought to be distant galaxies.
Radio astronomy allows scientists to detect radiation produced when massive celestial objects interact.
The team used the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) telescope in the Netherlands to pick up traces — or “jets” — of ancient radiation produced when galaxies merge. These jets, previously undetected, can extend over millions of light years.
“With radio observations we can detect radiation from the tenuous medium that exists between galaxies,” said Amanda Wilber, of the University of Hamburg.
“LOFAR allows us to detect many more of these sources and understand what is powering them.”
The discovery of the new light sources may also help scientists better understand the behavior of one of space’s most enigmatic phenomena.
Black holes — which have a gravitational pull so strong that no matter can escape them — emit radiation when they engulf other high-mass objects such as stars and gas clouds.
Tasse said the new observation technique would allow astronomers to compare black holes over time to see how they form and develop.
“If you look at an active black hole, the jets (of radiation) disappear after millions of years, and you won’t see them at a higher frequency (of light),” he said.
“But at a lower frequency they continue to emit these jets for hundreds of millions of years, so we can see far older electrons.”
The Hubble telescope has produced images that lead scientists to believe there are more than 100 billion galaxies in the Universe, although many are too old and distant to be observed using traditional detection techniques.
The map created by the LOFAR observations, part of which was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, contains data equivalent to ten million DVDs yet charts just two percent of the sky.
The LOFAR telescope is made up of a Europe-wide network of radio antenna across seven countries, forming the equivalent of a 1,300-kilometer diameter satellite dish.
The team plans to create high-resolution images of the entire northern sky, which they say will reveal as many as 15 million as-yet undetected radio sources.
“The oldest objects in the Universe are around 11-12 billion light years old,” said Tasse. “So we are going to see lots more of these objects.”