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Ethiopian Airlines to operate daily flights to Eritrea

African aviation giant says will initially operate daily flights but planned “very quickly” to operate multiple flights a day as well as cargo flights

Gulf News

Addis Ababa: The first passenger flight between Ethiopia and Eritrea since the start of a 20-year conflict will take place a week from Tuesday, Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement.

The African aviation giant said it would initially operate daily flights but planned “very quickly” to operate multiple flights a day as well as cargo flights.

“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,” said chief executive officer Tewolde Gebremariam.

“The resumption of air links will play a critical role in boosting the overall political, economic, trade and people-to-people ties between the two sisterly countries.”

After decades of acrimony that followed a 1998-2000 border war that killed 80,000 people, Ethiopia and Eritrea on Monday declared the official end of the conflict in a dizzying rapprochement.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed paid a historic visit this week to his country’s bitter foe in Eritrea, President Isaias Afwerki, after taking the shock decision last month to finally abide by a United Nations ruling demarcating the border between their nations.

The two nations have restored telephone communications for the first time in two decades and pledged to reopen embassies, while landlocked Ethiopia is to be allowed to use Eritrea’s ports.

The opening of ties could be an economic boon to the two nations, both poor but on very different paths.

Ethiopia, with a population of 100 million, is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to be Africa’s fastest-growing economy in 2018 with growth of 8.5 per cent. However it is struggling with mounting debt and foreign exchange shortages.

Abiy has announced a slew of reforms since his ascension to power, including the partial liberalisation of the economy.

Eritrea is one of the world’s most isolated countries, where a policy of indefinite forced military conscription has seen hundreds of thousands flee the country to Europe.

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