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Ethiopia Says Obelisk Return Strengthens Relations with Italy

Thousands of Ethiopians march in Axum to escort the ancient Obelisk
Ethiopia says the return from Italy of the final section of the Axum obelisk marks a new chapter in Ethiopian-Italian relations.

Ethiopian government spokesman Zemedkun Tekle tells VOA his country, and the world, are celebrating the arrival of the last piece of the obelisk, which fascist Italian troops stole from Axum in 1937.

He says the return of the obelisk is a diplomatic coup.

"The return of the obelisk through peaceful negotiations will lead Ethiopia and Italian relations to a new, new chapter," he announced. "Everybody here, individual citizens, are very, very respectful and happy with what the Italians have done this time."

The obelisk's return has been the subject of a feud between Ethiopia and Italy for more than 50 years. Agreements to return the obelisk have been made, and not honored, several times.

The obelisk, estimated to be around 1,700 years old, was originally carved from one stone. In order to transport it, the obelisk had to be taken apart in three pieces.

On Monday, thousands of Ethiopians celebrated the return of the monument, which Prime Minister Meles Zenawi called a "symbol of identity".