Published: Fri, July 20, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Celebration as first Ethiopia-Eritrea commercial flight takes off after 20 yearsNaija247news

Celebration as first Ethiopia-Eritrea commercial flight takes off after 20 yearsNaija247news

"Welcome home President Isaias!"

The first commercial flight from Ethiopia to Eritrea in 20 years landed safely in Asmara on Wednesday to be greeted by dancers waving flags and flowers, cementing a stunning rapprochement that has ended a generation of hostility in a matter of days.

Ethiopian Airlines announced that Asmara becomes its 114th destinations and the inaugural flight to the Eritrean capital is scheduled for today with the ultra-modern Boeing B-787 Dreamliner aircraft.

ADDIS ABABA- The resumption of flight to Eritrean capital Asmara would play an vast role in strengthening the two countries commercial and people-to-people ties, an economics expert said.

On Monday, Eritrea reopened its embassy in Ethiopia in further evidence of a rapid thaw between two countries.

Surafel Demissie, an Ethiopian priest whose parents died during his childhood, had never been to Eritrea - the country of his mother's birth - nor met any family members. "This will also give a big boost for travellers to Ethiopia and getting the e-visa won't be a problem", he said.

Among the passengers on the first flight was former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, whose shock resignation in February was the first step in a series of seismic shifts in the politics of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

"It is crazily expensive", said one Kenya-based Eritrean businesswoman. The state of war kept the country of 5 million in a constant state of military readiness with a system of compulsory conscription that sent thousands of people fleeing the country toward Europe and elsewhere.

Eritrea was a former province of Ethiopia until breaking away and declaring its independence in 1993.

A row over the demarcation of the shared border triggered a brutal conflict that lasted between 1998 and 2000, leaving 80,000 people dead before evolving into a bitter cold war.

He then paid a historic visit to Eritrea, during which he and President Isaias Afwerki declared an official end to the war.

"When I spoke with Isaias, I told him that there may not be enough hotels as Ethiopians visit Massawa and Asmara".

The emotional reunion has been welcomed by Ethiopians who share strong cultural ties with Eritreans and have been cut-off from friends and family on the other side during the long years of enmity.

Eritrea borders the Red Sea and presents Ethiopia with the opportunity to diversify its access to ports, which it has been developing across the East Africa region.

The global community, including the United States, has praised the end of hostilities.

Earlier this week, Eritrea's leader made an historic visit to Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa to reopen the country's embassy.

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