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How the glow of the historic accord between Ethiopia and Eritrea has faded

Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki (right) laughs with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during the inauguration ceremony marking the reopening of the Eritrean embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2018. (Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)

A year ago Eritreans could hardly contain their joy as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed touched down in Asmara. The city had seen nothing like it in a generation that knew war rather than peace. Men and women lined the streets and waved Ethiopian flags as Abiy arrived to seal a peace deal.

Less than a week later Eritrea’s president Isaias Afwerki made a reciprocal visit, landing in Addis Ababa to an equally rapturous welcome. In September a formal treaty was signed between the two leaders in the Saudi capital, Jeddah, witnessed by King Salman and the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who described it as an “historic event.”

The treaty covered a number of things. It ended the state of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia; declaring a new era of peace, friendship and comprehensive cooperation.

As part of this deal, there were two important provisions. One called for “the establishment of joint special economic zones. The other was a pledge to establish a high-level joint committee, as well as sub-committees where needed to guide and oversee the implementation of this agreement.

But there has been little apparent progress on either front. Economic co-operation was probably one of the key drivers of this reconciliation. These included plans to develop a massive potash mine that would straddle the border. But little has been heard of the project in recent months.

Much the same can be said of the joint committees that were given the job of sorting out the many issues bedevilling relations between the two countries. Read more...

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