- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2018

Longtime enemies Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea officially declared an end to one of Africa’s longest and bloodiest border disputes Monday, the latest breakthrough in the whirlwind first months of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.

Mr. Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed the accord on Monday at the statehouse in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea.

“The state of war has come to an end,” Mr. Abiy’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, said on Twitter after the ceremony.

The agreement calls for the restoration of trade, transport and telecommunications links between the two East African neighbors, as well as diplomatic ties, said Yemane Meskel, Eritrean minister of information.

Thousands of Eritreans cheered Mr. Abiy’s arrival in Asmara on Sunday, the Reuters news agency reported, waving the flags of both countries. The prices of Ethiopian dollar-denominated bonds hit their highest levels in 10 weeks after news of the agreement.

After a long war for independence, Eritrea broke away from Ethiopian control in the early 1990s, but a brutal war on the disputed new border killed at least 70,000 people from 1998 to 2000.

In 2000, a peace agreement between the two nations known as the Algiers Agreement provided for an independent boundary commission to rule on the status of disputed lands. However, fighting continued in 2003 after Ethiopian leaders rejected the boundary commission’s final ruling and refused to cede land to Eritrea.

But Mr. Abiy, a 41-year-old former military intelligence officer who participated in the 1998-2000 fighting, said after taking office in April that his government was willing to accept the Algiers Agreement.

Although many in the country welcomed the prospect of peace, the move could mean political peril for the new prime minister. Some Ethiopian groups that have been at the forefront of the conflict, such as the Irob, a minority group numbering about 30,000 in the northeast Tigray region, worry about losing their land.

“The decision would pose a big threat to the survival of the Irob people. We are not against the peace deal, but peace does not come at the expense of losing sovereignty,” Nigussie Hagos, a chief administrator for the Irob-populated town of Dawhan, told an Ethiopian newspaper.

“We are 100 percent Ethiopians. If our peoples are divided between two countries, our very survival would be in question.”

Countries in the region and the United Nations expressed support for the peace deal.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, now on a visit to Ethiopia, hailed the resumption of ties as “an amazing success.”

“These kinds of developments give us hope,” he told The Associated Press.

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