PM Abiy Ahmed on State Visit to Eritrea Amid Stalled Relations

By Staff Reporter

abiy-in-EritreaJuly 18, 2019 ( -- Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in Asmara on Thursday for a two-day state visit amid stalled relations and the closure of all border linking between the two neighboring horn African states.

Hundreds of Eritreans who came to Ethiopia after the opening the four border cross points did not go back to their country after the last border crossing namely Bure-Assab road was closed for undisclosed reasons on April 22nd this year.

The Bure-Assab road was closed four days after closure of Omhajer-Humera border, which is found in the north-western part of Ethiopia and south-west of Eritrea. The roads were closedwas by the Eritrean government from the Eritrean side.

The Bure-Assab road had officially been opened with the presence of Eritrean president Isaias Afeworki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed after the two countries ended two decades of hostility in 2018.

It is not clear why Eritrea closed the borders. Eyewitnesses, however, told that there was increasing deployment of military personnel from the Eritrean side at Zalambessa–Serha border.

Although the political relations were limited between leaders of the two countries, economic activities and people-to-people relations were taking hold with growing border trade in which currencies of both nations were used.

Ethiopia has finalized preparation to launch all kinds of transport services with its northern neighbor, Eritrea, Ethiopia’s Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges has announced.

Dagmawit Moges, Ethiopian Minister of Transport, told the national parliament on April 24th that her ministry had finalized preparation to fully launch all kinds of transport services with Eritrea.

She said her ministry was waiting for approval by the two governments to launch the actual activity.

In this round of visit, the two leaders are expected to further enhance the all-rounded cooperation between the two countries as well as regional issues of mutual interest.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who left to Asmara without prior information to the media, is expected to to discuss the way forward on relations and links between the two countries.

The Ethiopian delegation included Finance Minister Ahmed Shide and Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam.

Telephone connectivity and flights between the two states have continued throughout amid the unilateral closure of border crossings by Eritrea.

Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki accorded warm welcome to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his delegation on their arrival at Asmara’s International Airport, according to Yemane Gebremeskel, Eritrea’s Minister of Information.

According to many analyists, the Ethiopia-Eritrea relation is more complicated that simple trade relations between two neighboring countries. Currently, Eritrea is believed to be deeply involved in Ethiopian politics, more so than it has been in the last two decades. For one thing, numerous political organizations that have returned to Ethiopia in the past one year as part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed peace plan had their bases in Eritrea. And then there is Tigray, an Ethiopian state bordering Eritrea, which is ruled by the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF). President Isaias Afwerki still considers the TPLF an enemy due to a fallout they had two decades ago preceding the Ethio-Eritrea war. Currently, the TPLF is also not in good terms with the central government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who may see Eritrea not just as a trading partner, but also as a political tool against the TPLF. Many observers believe the Ethio-Eritrea relations is marred by intertwined political issues that basically have their roots in the assortment of insecure leaders in Ethiopia, trying to consolidate power in Ethiopia at any cost, perhaps to the determent of the long-term Ethiopian interests, unity and stability.

In the past, the Eritrean President did not hide his desire to have Ethiopia weak and divided. He even bragged three decades ago that he has given Ethiopia 100-years assignment. Recent developments do not seem to show change of heart on his part and do not bode well for Ethiopia, as evidenced by the normalization of relations announced a year ago with much fanfare and international acclaim that so far went nowhere. It remains to be seen whether the Ethiopian people will have, as they should, an open and across-the-board trade and diplomatic relations between the two neighboring countries, or one that is muddled with personal and party interests of various factions in Ethiopian politics.



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