Igad commends Ethiopia and Eritrea reconciliation

Monday July 9 2018

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (in

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (in glasses) is welcomed by Eritrea's President Isaias Afeworki in Asmara on July 8, 2018 at the start of a meeting to repair relations between the neighbours. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ARGAW ASHINE
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The East African regional bloc, the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) has commended the ongoing rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Igad, in a statement, expressed its support for the peace initiative to end two decades of bitter rivalry between the two countries that were once a single state.

Ethiopia is current chair of Igad,

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Sunday visited Asmara, following Addis Ababa's decision to accept a border settlement deal signed in 2000.

But Ethiopia has yet to withdraw from disputed territory along the border, including the town of Badme, which it controls in violation of the UN ruling.

Its rightful place

Igad also called on Eritrea to rejoin the bloc, which is mandated by the Africa Union to deal with major regional peace and security issues in the East Africa region.

“We also look forward to Eritrea rejoining the Igad family and taking its rightful place of collectively advancing peace and development in our region,” Secretary-General Mahboub Maalim stated in a statement.

Eritrea suspended its Igad membership in 2007 after the bloc issued a report accusing it of having ties with the Somalia extremist groups.

In 2011, Eritrea re-joined the bloc but again in 2017 suspended its membership in protest against Igad's partisanship with then arch-enemy Ethiopia.

Its entire coastline

Mr Abiy has since coming to office in April pursued an ambitious reform agenda, including reversing years of policy and external relations.

Once a province of Ethiopia that comprised its entire coastline, Eritrea voted to leave in 1993 after a bloody independence struggle.

The break rendered Ethiopia landlocked, and ties deteriorated five years later when a dispute over their shared frontier descended into war.

An Eritrean delegation visited Addis Ababa last month, after which the meeting between Mr Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki in Asmara was announced.