Somali leader makes first visit to Eritrea in diplomatic thaw

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is said to already be on his way to the country. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP)
Updated 28 July 2018
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Somali leader makes first visit to Eritrea in diplomatic thaw

  • The two nations have not had diplomatic relations for nearly 15 years
  • Eritrea’s information minister has said the three-day visit comes at the invitation of longtime leader Isaias Afwerki

MOGADISHU: Another diplomatic thaw was underway Saturday in the restless Horn of Africa region as Somalia’s president visited Eritrea for the first time and years of tensions gave way to an embrace.
“Somalia is ready to write a new chapter of its relations with Eritrea,” Abdinur Mohamed, a spokesman for President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, announced on Twitter.
The two nations have not had diplomatic ties for nearly 15 years. Eritrea, one of the world’s most closed-off nations, remains under United Nations sanctions for allegedly supporting the Somalia-based Al-Shabab extremist group. Eritrea denies it.
Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Meskel, said the three-day visit came at the invitation of President Isaias Afwerki, who has led since independence in 1993. “Both leaders have already held a summit,” the minister said on Twitter, sharing photos of the meeting.
“Wind of change is here to stay in the Horn of Africa,” one Eritrean diplomat, the ambassador to Japan Estifanos Afeworki, said on Twitter.
The visit by Somalia’s leader follows a stunning diplomatic thaw in recent weeks between Eritrea and neighboring Ethiopia after more than two decades. Ethiopia under reformist new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed already has asked that the UN sanctions on Eritrea be dropped.
The UN secretary-general has indicated that the sanctions could be obsolete.
The changing relations in the Horn of Africa region are of interest to the wealthy Gulf states just across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Already they have been jostling for influence in the African nations along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, including both Somalia and Eritrea. Landlocked Ethiopia also eyes both countries’ ports as outlets for its fast-growing economy.
The United Arab Emirates, which set up a military base at Eritrea’s post of Assab after a Saudi-led coalition launched its war against Shiite rebels in Yemen in 2015, has played a role in mending relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia, in recent days hosting the leaders of both countries and praising their “bold” gestures.
Somalia remains fragile under the threat of Al-Shabab, which holds some rural areas and often carries out high-profile suicide bombings in the capital, Mogadishu. A truck bombing in October killed more than 500 people in the deadliest attack in the country’s history.


Saudi Arabia key to stability says Pakistani FM ahead of crown prince visit

Updated 57 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia key to stability says Pakistani FM ahead of crown prince visit

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to arrive in Islamabad on Feb. 16 on a two-day visit
  • Qureshi said that the visit is expected to lay the foundations for effective and comprehensive cooperation between Pakistan and the Kingdom

LONDON: Saudi Arabia plays an important role in maintaining regional peace and stability, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said.
Speaking ahead of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan, Qureshi said that it is expected to lay the foundations for effective and comprehensive cooperation between the countries, and strengthen bilateral relations to “higher levels.”
“We are very pleased with the crown prince’s visit that seeks to establish effective communication at all levels. I expect this visit to have a significant impact in driving the solid ties between the two countries to higher levels,” Qureshi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Qureshi added that the Kingdom enjoys great influence and respect in Pakistan, and that the country aims to learn from Saudi Arabia’s example of fostering coexistence and moderation through organizing cultural activities and festivals.
The foreign minister also said that both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have contributed to pushing the Afghan peace process forward, and that Pakistan considers this “to be a very important role.
“Pakistan also played a role in this reconciliation and helped to overcome all difficulties. We hope that security and stability will prevail for all.”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to arrive in Islamabad on Feb. 16 on a two-day visit as part of his upcoming tour of several countries in Asia.