25 July 2018

Somalia: Former Rivals Hail UAE's Role in Bringing Peace

Photo: aljazeera
Eritrean Refugees (file photo).

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias Afwerki were given the Order of Zayed at Abu Dhabi summit

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki were honoured with the UAE's highest civil honour when the former rivals met in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, conferred the Order of Zayed on both leaders at the Presidential Palace in the capital.

It followed a remarkable detente between the two African nations after years of conflict and underlined the UAE's role in bringing both sides together.

Sheikh Mohammed on Tuesday said the agreement would lead to a brighter future for both countries.

"We have an utmost trust that this move will enhance the bilateral cooperation and coordination between the two neighbouring countries. And will fulfil their citizens' aspirations to achieve peace, development and prosperity," Sheikh Mohammed wrote on Twitter.

"It will [also] ensure stability and security in the Horn of Africa and the region in general."

The two African leaders, meanwhile, praised the UAE's role in establishing security and stability in the Horn of Africa.

It was a morning of ceremony at the Presidential Palace, taking place just days after Chinese president Xi Jinping departed following his landmark trip.

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Ethiopian and Eritrean flags fluttered in the summer breeze across the palace grounds, while a gun-salute welcomed both leaders.

They arrived in the main atrium of the palace at about midday: national anthems were played and they then greeted senior UAE ministers including Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation along with ambassadors to the UAE from across the globe.

A summit between the three was then held behind closed doors. Following the meeting, the two African leaders praised the role of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in "sponsoring and pushing forward the peace agreement", state news agency Wam reported. They said it would be a catalyst for positive relations that will benefit the Horn of Africa.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have spared no effort to help the two countries re-establish good relations for the sake of their people and the wider region, both leaders said.

The events over the past few weeks are a remarkable turnaround following about 20 years of conflict.

The thaw accelerated last month when Mr Abiy said Ethiopia would accept a UN-approved ruling made after a two-year war and also hand back disputed territory. This was followed earlier this month when Ethiopia and Eritrea re-established diplomatic relations and signed a declaration of peace and friendship in the Eritrean capital Asmara.

But behind the scenes, the UAE has been supporting peace efforts. In June, Abu Dhabi pledged Dh11 billion to Ethiopia during a visit by Sheikh Mohammed. It was a significant moment of support for Mr Abiy who only took up office a few months ago. Sheikh Abdullah said the agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea represents great political wisdom.

"The UAE congratulates Ethiopia and Eritrea on this historic agreement and hopes that this move will open further opportunities and development across economic, cultural and social sectors between the two nations," he said.

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