Addis Ababa. The first passenger flight between Ethiopia and Eritrea since the start of a 20-year conflict will take place next Wednesday, Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement.
The African aviation giant said Tuesday it would initially operate a once-a-day return flight between Addis Ababa and Asmara but planned “very quickly” to operate multiple flights daily as well as cargo flights. “With the opening of a new chapter of peace and friendship between the two sisterly countries, we look forward to starting flights to Asmara with the B787,” said chief executive officer Tewolde GebreMariam.
“The resumption of air links will play a critical role in boosting the overall political, economic, trade and people-to-people ties between the two sisterly countries.”
An initial statement said the first flights between the two countries would take place on Tuesday July 17, but this was later pushed to Wednesday July 18. After decades of acrimony that followed a 1998-2000 border war that killed 80,000 people, Ethiopia and Eritrea on Monday declared the official end of the conflict in a dizzying rapprochement.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed paid a historic visit this week to his country’s bitter foe in Eritrea, President Isaias Afwerki, after taking the shock decision last month to finally abide by a United Nations ruling demarcating the border between their nations.
The two nations have restored telephone communications for the first time in two decades and pledged to re-open embassies, while landlocked Ethiopia is to be allowed to use Eritrea’s ports.
The opening of ties could be an economic boon to the two nations, both poor but on very different paths.
Ethiopia, with a population of 100 million, is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to be Africa’s fastest-growing economy in 2018 with growth of 8.5 percent. However it is struggling with mounting debt and foreign exchange shortages. Abiy has announced a slew of reforms since his ascension to power, including the partial liberalisation of the economy. (AFP)