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Ethiopia offers an olive branch to Eritrea


In a nationally televised speech marking Martyrs’ Day, President Isaias Afwerki said, “We will send a delegation to Addis Ababa to gauge current developments directly and in depth as well as to chart out a plan for continuous future action. The Eritrean people, but also the Ethiopian people, have lost an opportunity of two generations for over half a century.” Two weeks ago Ethiopia made the surprise announcement that it was ready to accept a nearly 20-year-old peace deal. Tensions flared between the former allies over the border demarcation of the remote town of Badme, turning into a full-scale war in 1998. The fighting raged for two years and claimed at least 70,000 lives and it is very much in Eritrea's interest to accept.

The two-year war between Eritrea and Ethiopia killed an estimated 100,000 people. In this file photo from 1999, Eritrean forces are seen near the Belesse front line, preparing for battle [Reuters]
It has been 18 years since Ethiopia and Eritea signed the Algiers Peace Accord that officially ended the 1998-2000 war, which killed an estimated 100,000, displaced more than a million, and splintered thousands of families.
The Accord, brokered by the African Union, the United Nations and the United States, was not  designed merely to end one of the most senseless and deadliest conflicts in the world. It was also meant to iron out the underlying issues and pave the way for peaceful co-existence between the two nations. Nearly two decades on, however, the two countries are still at loggerheads and see each other as the number one geopolitical threat that they face.
On June 5, the Ethiopian government announced  its readiness to fully comply and implement the Algiers Peace Accord, an agreement it refused to comply with for 18 years. It also said that it will accept the outcome of a 2002 border commission ruling, which awarded disputed territories, including the town of Badme, to Eritrea.
Why now and what does this mean for the future of the two countries and the region?