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.


Korean border troops check removal of each other’s posts

Updated 10 min 53 sec ago
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Korean border troops check removal of each other’s posts

  • The two Koreas have each dismantled or disarmed 11 of their guard posts inside the Demilitarized Zone that forms their 248-km-long, 4-km -wide border
  • The Demilitarized Zone was originally created as a buffer between the countries at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War

INSIDE THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE: Dozens of South Korean soldiers visited former front-line North Korean guard posts on Wednesday to verify their recent removal as part of warming diplomacy by the rival Koreas while US-North Korea nuclear disarmament efforts remain stalled.
The two Koreas have each dismantled or disarmed 11 of their guard posts inside the Demilitarized Zone that forms their 248-kilometer (155-mile) -long, 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) -wide border. The removals will leave South Korea with about 50 other DMZ posts and North Korea with 150, according to defense experts in South Korea.
A small group of journalists was allowed to enter the zone to watch a South Korean team leave for a North Korean guard post on Wednesday morning to verify its destruction. North Korean teams wre also going to verify the work on the South Korean side of the zone later Wednesday.
Seven helmeted South Korean soldiers wearing backpacks, one carrying a camera and another a camcorder, approached the line separating the north and south sides of the DMZ. North Korean troops then walked in a row down a hill to meet them. The soldiers from the rival Koreas exchanged handshakes before moving up the hill together to go to the dismantled North Korean guard post.
Other groups of South Korean soldiers were simultaneously visiting 10 other North Korean guard posts. They inspected whether the guard posts and any underground structures have been completely dismantled and whether all troops, weapons and other equipment have been withdrawn, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.
The Demilitarized Zone was originally created as a buffer between the countries at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. But contrary to its name, the DMZ has become the world’s most heavily fortified frontier after the rival Koreas planted an estimated 2 million mines, deployed combat troops and heavy weapons and set up layers of barbed wire fences.
When the leaders of the Koreas met in Pyongyang in September, they agreed to lower military tensions along their border, including the withdrawal of some DMZ guard posts, halting live-fire exercises near the border, demilitarizing their shared border village of Panmunjom and removing mines at a DMZ area to launch joint searches for Korean War dead.
Conservatives in South Korea have criticized the deals, saying Seoul shouldn’t have agreed to such conventional arms reduction programs because North Korea’s nuclear threat remains unchanged.
US-led nuclear diplomacy aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear program has reported little progress since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump met for a summit in Singapore in June. North Korea has made a vague disarmament pledge, and some experts say the North’s turn to diplomacy after last year’s string of weapons tests is aimed to weaken US-led sanctions.