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Eritrea reopens embassy in Ethiopia amid thaw

Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki reopened his country’s embassy in Ethiopia on Monday, more than 20 years after the two countries broke off relations when they went to war.

The embassy inauguration caps Isaias’s historic visit to the Ethiopian capital aimed at cementing peace less than a week after Ethiopia and Eritrea declared an end to two decades of conflict.

State-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) showed Isaias raising the Eritrean flag at the embassy in downtown Addis Ababa and accepting from Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed keys to the building, filled with dusty furniture that appeared untouched for years.

READ MORE: Ethiopia’s 100-day revolution

The embassy visit marked the end of the Eritrean leader’s three-day stay in Ethiopia that also included a visit to an industrial park and a Sunday evening dinner and concert attended by thousands of Ethiopians.

“The high-level Eritrean government delegation headed by President Isaias just left Addis Ababa for Asmara,” EBC reported after Isaias departed the embassy.

Ethiopia and Eritrea expelled each others’ envoys at the start of a 1998-2000 border war that killed around 80 000 people.

Relations remained frozen after Ethiopia declined to accept a 2002 United Nations-backed border demarcation, leading to years of cold war between the two countries.

Last month, Abiy announced Ethiopia would accept the demarcation and cede land to Eritrea, paving the way for normalisation.

Abiy has pursued an aggressive reform agenda since taking office in April, including making peace with Eritrea, releasing jailed dissidents and liberalising parts of the economy.

Once a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea voted to leave in 1993 after a bloody, decades-long independence struggle.

Since the end of the war, Isaias has used the threat of Ethiopia aggression to justify a rash of repressive policies, including an indefinite national service program the UN has likened to slavery.

Spokesman for the Ethiopian foreign ministry, Meles Alem, told AFP Ethiopia has not yet reopened its embassy in the Eritrean capital Asmara.

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