1st commercial flight from Addis Ababa to Asmara lands

Asmara, July 20, 2018 (GMN) - Hailed as “the bird of peace,” the first commercial flight from Ethiopia to former rival Eritrea landed on Wednesday as air links resumed after the swift and stunning end of a 20-year state of war.

Eritrea’s information minister announced the arrival of the Ethiopian Airlines flight in the capital, Asmara, to a warm red-carpet welcome with the flags of both nations displayed. “Astonishing!” Eritrea’s ambassador to Kenya and Tanzania, Beyene Russom, said on Twitter.

The hundreds of passengers included people seeking to reunite with family, as well as former Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who was embraced by Eritrea’s foreign minister on arrival.

The expansion of tourism with the new flights brings a likely economic boost to Eritrea, which has faced years of UN sanctions over alleged support to extremists, which the government has denied. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed already has called for the sanctions to be lifted.

Eritrea’s capital last year was named to the UNESCO World Heritage list in appreciation of Asmara’s 19th and early 20th-century modernist architecture, designed by colonial-era Italian architects, and its highland environment. (AP)