Somalia: Somali President Begins Three-Day Visit in Eritrea As Diplomatic Relations Thaw

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President of Eritrea President Isaias Afwerki and Somalia's President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed.

Somali President Mohamed Abduallahi Mohamed began his three-day visit to Eritrea, where he will meet with President Isaias Afwerki. He is the first Somali president to enter Eritrea in 15 years.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed arrived in the Eritrean capital of Asmara on Saturday to kick off his three-day visit in a bid to normalize relations.

It is the first visit by a Somali president to Eritrea, one of the world's most isolated nations, since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The two nations have not had diplomatic ties in nearly 15 years.

Abdinur Mohamed, a spokesman for the Somali president, said on Twitter that the country "is ready to write a new chapter of its relations with Eritrea."

Economic and security concerns are at the top of the agenda, as well as "regional issues of interest to both countries," Eritrea's information ministry said.

Yemane Meskel, Eritrea's information minister, said the three-day visit came at the invitation of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, who has led since the country's independence. Meskel wrote on Twitter that the leaders "have already held a summit," sharing photos of the meeting.

Previous Somali administrations have accused Eritrea of supporting the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group. Eritrea, which remains under United Nations sanctions, has denied it, saying the accusations were concocted by Ethiopia.

The visit by the Somali president comes weeks after Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace agreement.

Ethiopia announced it would fully accept the terms of a 2000 peace agreement that it previously refused to honor. The move officially marked the end of a military stalemate in a border war that killed tens of thousands.

The thaw between Eritrea and Ethiopia began under reformist new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power earlier this year. Ahmed has already called for the UN sanctions against Eritrea to end.

The UN secretary general has indicated that the sanctions could be obsolete.

The improved relations are of great interest to the Gulf States just across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. They have been already competing for influence in the African nations along one of the world's biggest shipping lanes, including Somalia and Eritrea.

The United Arab Emirates has tried to help mend relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Persian Gulf country has also set up a military base in Eritrea's port of Assab after a Saudi-led coalition launched a war against Shiite rebels in Yemen in 2015.

Commercial flights between Ethiopia and Eritrea have resumed for the first time in twenty years, after they were halted by war. It's the latest step in a peace process ending three decades of conflict between the two east African countries.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is transforming Ethiopia at a breathtaking pace. Germany is already making plans to work closer with the country it regards as a strategic partner.

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