Addis Ababa (Agenzia Fides) - For the first time in 20 years a high-level Eritrean delegation, led by Foreign Minister Osman Saleh, arrived in Addis Ababa on Tuesday June 26, to talk about the end of the decade-long conflict between the two countries. The delegation was welcomed by the newly elected Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy in Addis Ababa. The guests were offered wreaths of flowers as a symbol of peace and hospitality, flags of both countries and posters with welcoming messages were hanged on the streets of the Capital city.
The Chairman of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA) who is President of Catholic Bishops Conference of Ethiopia and the Archbishop of Metropolitan Addis Ababa His Eminence Cardinal Berhaneyesus, C.M., was among those who warmly welcomed the delegation.
The Archbishop termed the occasion "a happy moment for the Catholic Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea" highlighting that the Catholic faithful in both countries have been praying for peace since the conflict started. According to Berhaneyesus, the Catholic Church has served as a bridge during all the years of standoff through the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia and Eritrea who was meeting until recently to discuss the life of the Church in both countries which has continued until the Holy Father decided to establish a Metropolitan Sui Iuris Church of Asamara.
Already in November, the bishops of AMECEA, led by vice president, Mgr. Thomas Msusa, Archbishop of Blantyre, Malawi, visited Eritrea to express solidarity with the Church in Eritrea for the concerns and challenges of the neighboring people.
The visit of an Eritrean delegation in Ethiopia is an important step towards the resolution of relations between the two countries of the Horn of Africa. The diplomatic ties were interrupted for almost 20 years, when in 1993 Eritrea asked for independence from Ethiopia.
Press agencies reported that this is only the first of a series of meetings on the reforms proposed since Abiy Ahmed became prime minister following the resignation of his predecessor last February. Speaking on behalf of Ethiopia, the Prime Minister said: "This dispute ends with this generation: may the era of love and reconciliation begin".
The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which began in 1998 with a dispute over the definition of borders, was formally concluded with the signing of the Algiers peace agreement, on December 12, 2000. However, tensions had further worsened in March 2012, when Ethiopian military forces launched an assault on some Eritrean posts, in response to Eritrea's alleged training of "subversive groups" to carry out attacks in Ethiopia. During his first speech to the legislators held after the inaugural ceremony on April 2, 2018, Abiy had also expressed his intention to normalize relations with Eritrea, inviting Asmara to engage in the process. For his part, the Eritrean information minister, Yemane Ghebre Meskel, had reiterated that the tensions would be resolved once the Ethiopian military forces had withdrawn from the Eritrean territories, in particular from the city of Badme. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 2/7/2018)