First commercial flight in 20 years leaves Ethiopia for Eritrea

(AFP)
Updated 18 July 2018
0

First commercial flight in 20 years leaves Ethiopia for Eritrea

  • Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s fastest-growing carriers, has said it would initially operate a once-a-day return flight between Addis Ababa and Asmara
  • Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict

ADDIS ABABA: The first commercial flight to Eritrea in two decades departed Wednesday from Addis Ababa after the two nations ended their bitter conflict in a whirlwind peace process.
Ethiopian Airlines said that flight ET0312 to Asmara had departed Bole International Airport, the latest concrete sign of a thaw between the neighboring countries which began only six weeks ago.
“This day marks a unique event in the history of Ethiopia and Eritrea,” the airline’s chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam said at a ceremony inaugurating the historic flight.
Overwhelming demand saw the African aviation giant operate two flights within 15 minutes of each other.
“The fact that we are taking two flights at a time shows the eagerness of the people,” said Tewolde.
An AFP journalist onboard the second flight said champagne was served to passengers in all classes, who toasted each other shortly before take-off.
Smiling flight attendants also handed out roses to the passengers.
Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s fastest-growing carriers, has said it would initially operate a once-a-day return flight between Addis Ababa and Asmara.
“With the demand we are witnessing, I think we’re going to increase the frequency to twice a day, thrice a day and even more,” said Tewolde.
He said the opening of the Eritrean airspace to Ethiopian Airlines would also mean more efficient routes to the Middle East.
Among the passengers on the first flight was former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, whose shock resignation in February was the first step in a series of shake ups in Ethiopian politics and the Horn of Africa at large.
“I knew one day it would happen,” Hailemariam said of the peace with Eritrea.
Hailemariam was succeeded in April by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a 42-year-old former army officer and cabinet minister described by analysts as a “man in an extreme hurry.”
After announcing the liberalization of parts of the Ethiopian economy and releasing jailed dissidents, Abiy last month declared his intention to make peace with Eritrea after two decades of frozen relations.
Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict.
A row over the demarcation of the shared border triggered a brutal 1998-2000 conflict which left 80,000 people dead before evolving into a bitter cold war.
Abiy stunned observers with his announcement he would finally accept a 2002 United Nations-backed border demarcation. However he has yet to announce a pull out of troops.
He then paid a historic visit to Eritrea, during which he and President Isaias Afwerki declared an official end to the war. Afwerki reciprocated with a state visit to Ethiopia just days later.
The emotion-filled reunion has been welcomed by Ethiopians, who share strong cultural ties with Eritreans, and many of whom were completely cut off from family during the long years of enmity.
On Monday Afwerki re-opened Eritrea’s embassy in Addis Ababa.
The rapprochement is expected to provide an economic boost to both nations, offering booming Ethiopia — which currently channels its trade through Djiboutian ports — access to Eritrean shores.
Meanwhile 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.


‘Saudi Inc’ author says no shows won’t dent KSA investment appeal

Updated 23 October 2018
0

‘Saudi Inc’ author says no shows won’t dent KSA investment appeal

  • Ellen Wald said there was an element of symbolism in the decision by some executives not to attend the Future Investment Initiative
  • Wald also said that the absence of many big name investors from the US and Europe might hand an advantage to other potential business partners

RIYADH: An American expert on US-Saudi business affairs believes that the withdrawal of some senior business leaders from the investment conference that opens in Riyadh today does not reflect the Kingdom’s commercial attractions.
Ellen Wald, president of the Transversal Consulting think-tank and author of the recent book “Saudi Inc,” told Arab News that there was an element of symbolism in the decision by some executives not to attend the Future Investment Initiative in the Saudi capital, and that many business people were still looking to do business there.
“I think the big pull out of CEOs is not really reflective of the corporate interest in the Kingdom because we see them sending their next level of executives along. So to some degree it (the CEO pullout) is symbolic. I think what they experience here this week will have an effect,” she said.
Wald also said that the absence of many big name investors from the US and Europe might hand an advantage to potential business partners in other parts of the world.
“In terms of attracting foreign investment, Saudi Arabia could have strategic leverage with Russia and China, and a unique opportunity to work on cutting edge technolgies,” she said.
Wald was speaking at an event organized by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center to discuss her book. She said that Saudi Arabia had a greater need for technology and know-how than for cash investment.
“With regard to foreign investment, it is not about extracting money, but about extracting expertise. The Saudi model has been to hire outside industrial talent, for example the Public Investment Fund and its cinema partner AMC. They are buying expertise in the same way that the Saudis bought in expertise with Aramco, all those years ago. Eventually they (PIF) will buy the cinemas out or bring in somebody else to run them,” she added.