Eritrea reopens embassy in Addis Ababa in fresh sign of thaw with Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki re-opened the embassy in the capital Addis Ababa in a brief ceremony. (Reuters)
Updated 16 July 2018
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Eritrea reopens embassy in Addis Ababa in fresh sign of thaw with Ethiopia

  • One week ago the leaders declared their “state of war” over and Isaias spent the weekend in Ethiopia
  • The leaders jointly raised the Eritrean flag inside a newly refurbished embassy as a military band played Eritrea’s anthem

ADDIS ABABA: Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki reopened his country’s embassy in Ethiopia on Monday, the latest in a series of dizzying peace moves after two decades of war between the neighbors.
The embassy inauguration caps Isaias’s historic visit to the Ethiopian capital aimed at cementing peace less than a week after the former enemies declared an end to the conflict.
State-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) showed Isaias raising the Eritrean flag at the embassy in downtown Addis Ababa and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed handing him keys to the building, filled with dusty furniture that appeared untouched for years.


The embassy visit marked the end of Isaias’s three-day stay in Ethiopia which also saw him visiting an industrial park and attending dinner and a concert on Sunday evening.
Thousands of Ethiopians packed an exhibition hall, waving Eritrean flags and chanting Isaias’s name as both leaders pledged commitment to their newfound unity.
“Both nations have chosen peace as opposed to war,” said Abiy, as Isaias also voiced his support, saying: “We won’t allow anyone to stop this from happening.”
The 71-year-old Eritrean strongman left Addis shortly after the embassy opening, EBC reported.
Writing on Twitter, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said the trip had “inexorably elevated bilateral ties of both countries to new, promising, heights.”

He described the embassy opening as “yet another milestone in the robust (and) special ties of peace and friendship both countries are cultivating with earnestness in these momentous times.”
Once a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea voted to leave in 1993 after a bloody, decades-long independence struggle.
Ethiopia and Eritrea expelled each others’ envoys at the start of a 1998-2000 border war that killed around 80,000 people.
Relations remained frozen after Ethiopia declined to accept a 2002 United Nations-backed border demarcation, leading to years of cold war between the two countries.
Last month, Abiy announced Ethiopia would accept the demarcation and cede land to Eritrea. However, it has not yet announced the withdrawal of troops from the area.
Abiy has pursued an aggressive reform agenda since taking office in April, including making peace with Eritrea, releasing jailed dissidents and liberalising parts of the economy.
After declaring his intention to make peace on June 5, events have moved at breakneck speed.
Abiy visited Asmara a month later, announcing the normalization of diplomatic and economic ties, and on July 9, the two leaders signed a joint declaration declaring the end of the war.
Telecommunications links were quickly restored and Ethiopian Airlines will on Wednesday make its first passenger flight between the nations in 20 years.
Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Meles Alem told AFP Ethiopia had not yet reopened its embassy in the Eritrean capital Asmara.
Amnesty International has said the newfound peace should be a catalyst for change in Eritrea, one of the world’s most isolated nations.
Since the end of the war, Isaias has used the threat of Ethiopian aggression to justify a rash of repressive policies, including an indefinite national service program the UN has likened to slavery.


Greek Prime Minister heads to Odysseus’ home at end of bailout journey

Updated 21 August 2018
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Greek Prime Minister heads to Odysseus’ home at end of bailout journey

ATHENS: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras headed to the Greek island of Ithaca on Tuesday in a gesture laden with classical symbolism as the country emerges from nine years of crisis and international financial bailouts.
The island was home to Odysseus, who found his way home from the Trojan war after a 10-year voyage lost at sea, recounted in Homer’s epic poem.
Tsipras is due to give a state address from the island, a day after Greece ended its third bailout deal with international creditors who have bankrolled the country in return for tough reforms and austerity monitored by their inspectors since 2010.
“We are not saying that all problems have been solved because we exited the bailout, we will not celebrate,” deputy economy minister Alexis Haritsis told state tv ERT. “But it is a significant day and it is a success to manage to get out of a tough surveillance.”
Former Prime Minister George Papandreou, who applied for the first bailout from Greece’s euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund in April 2010, also drew on the Odyssey analogy at the time.
“We are on a difficult path, a new odyssey for Greece and for the Greek nation,” Papandreou said at the time. “But we know the way to Ithaca, and we have charted the waters in our quest.”
Austerity and political turmoil followed, shrinking the economy by a quarter, pushing a third of the population into poverty and forcing the migration of thousands abroad.
Another two bailouts followed in 2012 and 2015. In all, the €288 billion ($330 billion) Greece has borrowed is the largest bailout in history, saddling the country with debt the equivalent of 180 percent of its annual economic output.
In the coming years, Greece will have to maintain primary budget surpluses — excluding debt repayments — and further cuts in pensions may be made in 2019.
One newspaper also referred to the long voyage of Odysseus. “Even after Ithaca we will still be rowing,” the daily Ethnos said on its front page.