That was the view expressed by member of the UN Security Council after receiving a close door briefing on improving relations between the two countries that have been locked in an uneasy stalemate since 2000 when a UN brokered a peace deal ending two years of warfare.
The UN says moves taken by the two countries in recent weeks have sown seeds of hope but warned that many challenges lay ahead on the record to recovery. Council was briefed behind closed doors by Ethiopia’s Ambassador whose country also leads IGAD.
“Everyone agrees that what’s going on between Eritrea and Ethiopia is a historic and very significant development with far reaching positive consequences potentially for the Horn of Africa and beyond. We have welcomed the commitment of Eritrea and Ethiopia to jointly endeavour to ensure regional peace development and cooperation,” says Olof Skoog, Council president from Sweden.
The two decades long conflict, triggered by a border dispute in 1998 killed more than 80 000 people with some 350 000 along the border uprooted or displaced.
“Members have commended the signing of the joint declaration of peace and friendship by President Isaias Afwerki and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Finally, I just want to say that everyone encourages actors to offer their support to the peace process and that we all stand ready to support Ethiopia and Eritrea in the implementation of the joint-declaration and it’s also a very positive approach taken to the offer of the SG to offer his good offices when it comes to the Djibouti and Eritrean issue.”
Djibouti’s Ambassador Mohamed Siad Doualeh had written to the UN Secretary General to facilitate a separate agreement to peacefully resolve a similar border dispute with Eritrea, urging a judicial settlement or arbitration that would be legally binding.
Ambassador Skoog says the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea is now forming part of their deliberations.
“We’re having that discussion right now. Sanction is of course part of the whole equation. So that discussion has just started over the last few days including today. But the broader issue is really how the Security Council can support the trend that we’re seeing now which includes breaking the isolation of some countries and ensure that whatever we do is encouragement. An acknowledgment of what has happened as something quite extraordinary; and an encouragement to ensure that the process continues and that it leads to the release of the potential of other issues in the region. So exactly how the sanctions against Eritrea plays into that, we’ll see. But certainly Sweden is in favour of moving swiftly on all these agenda.”
The UN says Ethiopia and Eritrea will need support in removing landmines and rebuilding infrastructure along the border where the conflict was concentrated while reconciliation and efforts around social cohesion will be key to continued progress in the region.