Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia leaders to meet in Asmara

In this grab taken from video provided by ERITV, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, background centre is welcomed by Erirea’s President Isaias Afwerki as he disembarks the plane, in Asmara, Eritrea, Sunday, July 8, 2018. With laughter and hugs, the leaders of longtime rivals Ethiopia and Eritrea met for the first time in nearly two decades Sunday amid a rapid and dramatic diplomatic thaw aimed at ending one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts. (ERITV via AP)

By The Associated Press
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somalia leaders are set to meet in Eritrea’s capital Asmara, furthering the diplomatic thaw in the strategic Horn of Africa region.

By bringing together the leaders of former arch-foes in a summit Wednesday, Eritrea is building newly friendly relations with neighbors Ethiopia and Somalia.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed arrived at Eritrea’s in Assab port for a two-day working visit in Eritrea, said Eritrea’s Minister of Information, Yemane Gebremeskel. He tweeted that Ethiopia’s leader and Eritrea’s Preisdent Isias Afwerki will hold “extensive discussions” to follow up on an agreement signed by the two countries in July.

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He later tweeted that Somalia’s President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohamed will arrive in Asmara later Wednesday for a tripartite summit.

Ethiopian state affiliated media outlets reported Abiy visited the Assab port. Later Wednesday, an Ethiopian merchant ship is expected to dock in Assab, the first Ethiopian vessel there since a bloody border war broke out 20 years ago in which tens of thousands were killed.

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Ethiopia is looking at the possible use of Assab port, following the two decades of antagonistic relations between the two countries that forced it to rely almost exclusively on the more distant port of Djibouti.

Ethiopia’s reformist leader Abiy since coming to power in April has succeeded in forging newly friendly relations with Eritrea. The leaders of the two counrtries have since visited each other’s capitals in recent weeks and opened to the public the formerly heavily militarized border areas. Ethiopia must still withdraw troops from contested locations including the flashpoint border town of Badme.

Also in July, Somalia’s president visited Eritrea, developing a new friendship, following tensions over Eritrea’s alleged support for Somalia’s extremist rebel group, al-Shabab.

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