Ethiopian and Eritrean leaders mark peace accord in Abu Dhabi

The UAE has increased its military presence in the Horn of Africa, establishing bases in Eritrea and Somaliland.
Sunday 29/07/2018
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (C) receives Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L) and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki at the presidential palace in Abu Dhabi, on July 24. (AFP)
New horizons. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (C) receives Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L) and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki at the presidential palace in Abu Dhabi, on July 24. (AFP)

LONDON - Leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea met in Abu Dhabi to finalise a peace accord and express appreciation for the role played by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in facilitating the agreement that ended decades of tensions and bloodshed.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on July 24 were presented with the UAE’s highest honour, the Order of Zayed, for their efforts to reach a peace agreement.

“The bold & historic step taken by the leaders of the two neighbouring countries to end the conflict and open new horizons for cooperation and joint coordination is a model that can be followed in resolving conflicts around the world,” UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan posted on Twitter.

“We are confident that this step will contribute to further cooperation & joint coordination between the neighbours & fulfil their people’s aspirations for peace, development & prosperity,” he added.

Sheikh Mohammed was a catalyst in getting Ethiopia and Eritrea to implement the peace deal.

The Economist reported that the appointment of Ahmed as Ethiopian prime minister in April was important in starting the peace process. He not only called for peace but accepted a UN-sponsored peace agreement on June 5, which involved ceding disputed territory to Eritrea.

Ahmed reached out to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi for help in convincing Afwerki to respond to his appeals for peace.

The Economist said Sheikh Mohammed hosted Afwerki and suggested incentives in exchange for peace.

Afwerki and Ahmed thanked Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and Sheikh Mohammed for “sponsoring and pushing forward the peace agreement to be a catalyst for positive relations that will benefit the neighbouring countries and the Horn of Africa.”

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have in recent years increased their influence in the Horn of Africa.

One of the biggest UAE investments in Africa has been through Dubai-based DP World, which built a large port in Djibouti in 2006. Ten years later, the firm announced a $442 million agreement with the Somaliland government to develop a regional trade and logistics hub at Berbera Port.

The UAE has increased its military presence in the Horn of Africa, establishing bases in the Eritrean port of Assab and in the port town of Berbera, Somaliland, to monitor the Bab el Mandeb Strait.

The Emirates provides training and support for Somaliland security forces which is a much-needed boost for Somaliland authorities because their borders are not recognised by Somalia and al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab terrorist group operates in the border area between the two countries.

The UAE is also lending support for counterterrorism operations in West Africa.

This gives the UAE a strong military foothold in Africa and, global intelligence firm Stratfor said: “Beyond supporting ongoing activities in Yemen, the establishment of bases outside Emirati borders reveals the ambitions of Abu Dhabi and its Gulf allies to step up their military presence in the region.”

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