July 10, 2018 / 6:13 AM / 8 days ago

Ethiopian Airlines says will resume flights to Eritrea's capital on July 17

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian Airlines said on Tuesday it would resume flights to Eritrea’s capital Asmara on July 17 for the first time in 20 years, a day after the neighbors and longtime foes declared their “state of war” over.

FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Airline planes are seen parked at the Bole International Airport in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo

In a historic deal on Monday, the Horn of Africa neighbors agreed to open embassies, develop ports and resume flights, concrete signs of a rapprochement that has swept away two decades of hostility since war erupted over their disputed frontier in 1998.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and walk together at Asmara International Airport, Eritrea July 9, 2018 in this photo obtained from social media on July 10, 2018. GHIDEON MUSA ARON VISAFRIC/via REUTERS

“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,” the firm’s Chief Executive Tewolde GebreMariam said, referring to a Boeing jet.

Monday’s announcement formally ended one of Africa’s most intractable military stand-offs, a conflict that has destabilized the region and seen both governments funnel large parts of their budgets into security and soldiers.

The 1998-2000 border war killed an estimated 80,000 people. Tens of thousands were also deported, splitting groups that shared bloodlines.

Slideshow (3 Images)

The rapproachment followed a visit to Asmara by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who embraced Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki on the airport runway.

Thousands of Eritreans came onto the streets to cheer them and the two men danced side by side to traditional music from both countries at a dinner that evening.

The deal signed between them on Monday also includes a resumption of phone connections.

Ethiopia’s state-run telecoms monopoly Ethio Telecom sent text messages to its subscribers late on Monday, announcing “with happiness” the restoration of phone links.

Editing by Himani Sarkar

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