Eritrea has reopened its mission to the African Union, ending years of self-imposed exile from the continental organization. But diplomats say the move does not signal a thaw in relations between Eritrea and its archrival, the African Union host Ethiopia.
Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union Girma Asmerom Tesfay presented credentials this week to AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping. An AU statement said Ping expressed delight at seeing Eritrea return to the 53-member organization after several years’ absence.
Eritrea recalled its previous ambassador in an angry protest at what it called the African Union’s ‘failure’ to condemn Ethiopia’s alleged violations of a peace agreement that ended a 1998-2000 border war. The continental body was one of the main brokers of the agreement.
Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia and declared independence in 1993 after a 30-year struggle. But a border dispute sent the neighbors back to war five years later, and relations have been frozen since.
At Ethiopia’s urging, the AU took the unprecedented step in 2009 of asking the United Nations to penalize Eritrea for providing aid to Islamic fighters in Somalia. Despite Eritrea’s strong denial, the UN Security Council imposed tough sanctions on the Asmara government, including an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans.
AU Chairman Ping last year rejected Eritrean allegations that Ethiopia was using its position as AU host to block Eritrea from reopening its mission in Addis Ababa. Diplomats say Ping has worked tirelessly to bring the estranged member back into the fold.
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry has strongly denied any attempt to block Eritrea’s return. But in a telephone interview, ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said the re-establishment of Asmara’s AU mission will have no effect on the frozen bilateral relationship.
“It has nothing to do with the situation. We are the host country of the African Union,” said Mufti. “We are under obligation to facilitate anything for the African Union. That has nothing to do with the status quo.”
The Ethiopian spokesman rejected a suggestion that the arrival of an Eritrean government representative in Addis Ababa might be a sign of a thaw. He said there has been no change in the status quo.
Eritrea sent a high-level observer delegation to the most recent AU summit in Kampala last July as a sign of its renewed interest in continental affairs. There was no immediate word on who might represent the Asmara government at the next continental summit beginning later this month in Addis Ababa.
Eritrea appoints representative to AU after years absence
APA-Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) – The chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Dr. Jean Ping, said he was delighted to see Eritrea return to the African Union after several years of absence, when receiving the credentials of Girma Asmeron Tesfay as the new Permanent Representative of Eritrea to the African Union, said an AU press release issued on Wednesday in Addis Ababa.
Welcoming the PR Asmeron Tesfay on Monday at the AU Headquarters, Ping described Eritrea’s return as a major achievement which has been a priority since he took office three years ago.
In that regard, Dr. Ping recalled that one of his first trips abroad as AUC Chairperson was to Asmara, where he held fruitful discussions with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on several issues of mutual interest, including the reopening of Eritrea’s mission to the AU.
Chairperson Ping assured Ambassador Ghirma Asmerom of the full support and cooperation of the Commission in the discharge of his new responsibilities, the release said.
In response, the new Permanent Representative lauded the efforts and goodwill of the Chairperson and expressed his country’s gratitude for the key role he played in bringing Eritrea back to the African Union.
The Ambassador also reiterated Eritrea’s commitment to peace, stability and development in Africa.
The Chairperson and Ambassador Tesfay also exchanged views on several topical issues across the continent.
Eritrea recalled its ambassador to the AU in November 2009.