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Ethiopia Resumes Commercial Flights to Eritrea


Passengers pose for a selfie picture inside an Ethiopian Airlines flight which departed from the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Eritrea's capital Asmara on July 18, 2018.

Ethiopia's main airline has resumed commercial flights to neighboring Eritrea, the latest sign of normalized ties between the longtime foes.

Two Ethiopian Airlines planes landed in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on Wednesday. One carried dignitaries and business leaders set to meet with Eritrean officials; the other was filled with ordinary people flying to visit family and friends.

Tewelde Woldegebriel, a reporter for VOA's Horn of Africa service, said the mood at the Asmara airport was joyous, with people dressed in traditional clothes and singing traditional songs.

The reporter said that when he asked celebrants how they felt, most replied, "We have no words."

Ethiopian Airlines tweeted a picture of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner taking off for the short flight from Addis Ababa to Asmara with the caption "The bird of peace has just flown to #Asmara! #Familyreunion #Ethiopia #Eritrea"

Passengers included former Ethiopian Prime Minister Haliemariam Desalegn, who upon landing led the travelers off the plane and onto a red carpet at the airport.

Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegm, waving his arms, was among the passengers on the first passenger flight in 20 years from Addis Ababa to Asmara, Eritrea, July 18, 2018.
Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegm, waving his arms, was among the passengers on the first passenger flight in 20 years from Addis Ababa to Asmara, Eritrea, July 18, 2018.

​The flights mark the latest chapter in a new and fast-moving era of detente that began when Ethiopia's new reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, announced in June that Addis Ababa would finally honor a deal signed in 2000 to end a two-year border war that killed an estimated 70,000 people.

Earlier this month, Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a historic peace deal that formally ended one of Africa’s longest, most intractable conflicts.

The two nations have since restored telephone lines, and Eritrea has reopened its embassy in Addis Ababa on Monday.

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

Eritrean Airline flight attendants greet the arrivals.
Eritrean Airline flight attendants greet the arrivals.

VOA's Tewelde Woldegebriel contributed to this report.

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