JEDDAH: Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (center) attends a meeting between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (center right) and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (center left), in the presence of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (left) ahead of the signing of the Jeddah peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea yesterday. – AFP

JEDDAH: Ethiopia and Eritrea signed an agreement yesterday at a summit in Saudi Arabia, bolstering a historic peace accord between the two former Horn of Africa enemies, officials said. Authorities did not reveal exact details of the new deal signed in Jeddah, but sources close to the Saudi government said it would further help strengthen relations between the two countries. Saudi King Salman hosted the signing ceremony which was also attended by his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“The peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea signed today in Jeddah is a historic event that will contribute to strengthening security and stability in the region,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Twitter. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace pact in July ending two decades of enmity sparked by a two-year border conflict which broke out in 1998. Two land border crossings between Ethiopia and Eritrea were reopened last Tuesday for the first time in 20 years, crowning a rapid reconciliation between the former bitter enemies.

The warming of ties in the Horn of Africa has also seen Ethiopia and Eritrea re-open air links, embassies and trade routes. Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s, and war broke out later that decade over a border dispute. A 2002 UN-backed boundary demarcation was meant to settle the dispute for good, but Ethiopia refused to abide by it.

A turnaround began in June when Abiy announced that Ethiopia would hand back to Eritrea the disputed areas including the flashpoint town of Badme where the first shots of the border war were fired. Saudi Arabia, along with Gulf ally the United Arab Emirates, helped broker the historic rapprochement that ended decades of enmity. In recent years Eritrea has strengthened ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which has reportedly built a military base at the strategic southern port of Assab used in its operation in Yemen. The two Gulf countries also maintain close ties with Ethiopia, part of what analysts call a strategic push into Africa. – AFP