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3:37 pm - Tuesday September 19, 6513

Ethiopia and Eritrea reopen their border for the first time in 20 years - ABC News

The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have re-opened crossing points on their shared border for the first time in 20 years, clearing the way for trade between the former foes after a stunning reconciliation.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki opened the frontier at Bure, a region that saw some of the fiercest fighting during their 1998-2000 war.

Tensions over the border burned on after that fighting ended — until Mr Abiy offered to end the military standoff this year as part of a package of reforms that have reshaped the political landscape in the Horn of Africa and beyond.

Mr Isaias and Mr Abiy “officially opened the Debay Sima-Burre border point between [the] two countries for road transport connectivity,” Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Meskel said in a tweet.

The two leaders then opened the Serha-Zalambesa connection in a second ceremony, footage on Ethiopia’s state TV showed.

The leaders also celebrated Ethiopian New Year together at the border with their troops, Fitsum Arega, Mr Abiy’s chief of staff, said on Twitter.

Pictures on Mr Arega’s Twitter account show the leaders talking and walking side by side.

Since signing in Asmara on July 9 an agreement to restore ties, the Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders have moved swiftly to end two decades of hostility.

Eritrea reopened its embassy in Ethiopia in July, and Ethiopia reciprocated last week.

Flights have also resumed between the two countries.

Eritrea has also agreed to open up its ports to its landlocked neighbour and announced plans to upgrade a connecting road.

Residents on another part of the border said Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers recently started clearing landmines.

“As of today, Ethiopian and Eritrean people will prosper together and march in unison … The last five months have brought hope and reconciliation,” Mr Abiy told a New Year’s Eve concert crowd of thousands in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian New Year has roots in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and is related to the Julian calendar.

Eritrea has used the Gregorian calendar since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

The reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been warmly welcomed by the international community and has led to a series of further thaws in the fragile Horn of Africa region, with Eritrea resuming diplomatic ties with both turbulent Somalia and the small but strategic port and military nation of Djibouti.

AP/Reuters

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