June 26, 2018 / 7:12 AM / a year ago

Eritrea sends delegation to Ethiopia for first talks since conflict

Ethiopia's prime minister Abiy Ahmed attends a rally during his visit to Ambo in the Oromiya region, Ethiopia April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - A high-level delegation from Eritrea was due to arrive in its neighbour and long-time foe Ethiopia on Tuesday to discuss recent peace overtures, raising hopes of a breakthrough in one of Africa’s most intractable military stand-offs.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said this month he was ready to honour all the terms of a peace deal that ended the countries’ 1998-2000 conflict - suggesting he might be willing to settle a festering row over the position of their border.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki said last week he welcomed what he called Ethiopia’s “positive messages” and decided to send his first official delegation to the government in Addis Ababa in two decades.

The Eritrean delegation was made up of presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab, Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and the envoy to the African Union, the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said.

Eritrea fought a border war with its larger neighbour that killed about 80,000 people, but both sides remain at odds over the status of the frontier town of Badme. The border has remained militarised ever since.

Abiy, who was at a rally hit by a grenade attack on Saturday, has made a series of other startling announcements since he took office in April, including plans for the partial privatisation of the state-run telecoms monopoly and state-owned Ethiopian Airlines.

Eritrea and Ethiopia broke off diplomatic relations two decades ago, although Asmara has a permanent delegation in Addis Ababa representing it at the African Union, whose headquarters are in the Ethiopian capital.

No Eritrean representatives have been part of an official visit for talks with the Ethiopian government since at least 1998.

Writing by Costas Pitas in Nairobi; Editing by Louise Heavens and Andrew Heavens

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