On Monday, July 9, Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a "joint declaration of peace and friendship" at a summit in Asmara (Eritrea's capital), signaling a historic rapprochement between the two countries, and pledged to work toward increasing transnational cooperation. Promised changes include the reopening of embassies, access to ports, restoration of commercial flight connections, and implementation of the UN-brokered border agreement. Telecommunications between the two countries, blocked for over two decades, have already been reestablished.
A United Nations peacekeeping force has been deployed along the Ethiopia-Eritrea border since 1998, when a border conflict broke out between the two countries. Tens of thousands of people died during the 1998-2000 conflict. Although a peace treaty was signed in 2000, tensions have remained high at the border in the intervening years and periodic border clashes continued to occur. Sunday's meeting was the first encounter between leaders of the two neighboring states in two decades.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy was sworn in on April 2 after being designated by the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, to succeed Hailemariam Desalegn as its chairperson. Abiy, the first ethnic Oromo to become prime minister since 1991, vowed to implement reforms in an effort to restore peace, stability, and bring change. In a surprise move in June, Abiy's government announced that Ethiopia would accept the terms of the 2000 peace agreement with Eritrea.
Individuals in Ethiopia or Eritrea are advised to monitor developments to the local situation, to remain vigilant at all times and to avoid any form of public demonstration or public gathering due to the risk of violence. Adhere to all instructions issued by authorities and respect all laws (curfews, etc.). Despite the recent thaw in diplomatic relations, the Eritrea-Ethiopia border should continue to be avoided until more information becomes available regarding the situation at the historically tense frontier.
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