Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Saturday visit Addis Ababa- Ethiopia less than a week after the nations declared an end to two decades of conflict.
President Afwerki arrived in the Ethiopian capital just five days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Eritrea as part of a peace process aimed at ending years of violence and animosity between the neighbours who were once part of the same nation.
Prime Minister Abiy and President Afwerki shared laughs and hugs at an official lunch on Saturday as the Ethiopian leader said his counterpart was “beloved, respected and missed by the Ethiopian people.”
He said “We are no longer people of two countries. We are one,” Isaias told political and cultural figures gathered in a palace built during Ethiopia’s imperial days. “We’ll go forward together.”
President Afwerki started his three-day visit at Addis Ababa’s airport, where he and Prime Minister Abiy strode down a red carpet as a brass band played and traditional dancers cheered.
The leaders then drove into the city on a road lined with thousands of people dressed in white shawls and waving palm fronds as Ethiopian and Eritrean flags flew side-by-side from lampposts.
Later in the day, the two leaders flew to the southern city of Hawassa where Isaias toured an industrial park that’s key to Ethiopia’s economy.
Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict.
The move left Ethiopia landlocked, and the deterioration of relations after the outbreak of the war in 1998 forced Addis Ababa to channel its foreign trade through Djibouti.
The two countries showed little sign of rapprochement since the signing of the Algiers peace agreement in 2000 after a conflict which left 80,000 people dead before settling into a bitter cold war.