December 13, 2018 / 8:06 AM / 2 months ago

Eritrean president arrives for first visit to Somalia, minister says

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (L) is welcomed by Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as he arrives at the Aden Abdulle International Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Feisal Omar?

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki arrived on Thursday for his first-ever visit to Somalia, Eritrea’s information minister said, in another sign of rapidly changing relations in the region following Eritrea’s rapprochement with one-time foe Ethiopia.

Isaias landed in Mogadishu and headed to the Somali president’s office, Reuters witnesses. Security was tight in the capital, they said.

“President Isaias’s historic visit is part and parcel of the consultative Tripartite Summits of the Heads of State and Government of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia,” Yemane Meskel said on Twitter.

The three countries have been mending their sometimes fraught relations since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in April.

In July, Somalia and Eritrea said they planned to establish diplomatic relations as ties improved across the Horn of Africa following Eritrea’s rapprochement with Ethiopia.

Past Somali administrations had accused Eritrea of supplying weapons to anti-government Islamist insurgents. Asmara has repeatedly denied this, saying the accusations were concocted by its enemy, Ethiopia.

In 2007, Eritrea walked out of the East African bloc IGAD in protest as Ethiopian forces entered Somalia to fight militants.

Reporting by George Obulutsa, Feisal Omar and Abdirahman Hussein; editing by Aaron Maasho, Larry King

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