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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Eritrea says leader of Somalia, another rival, to visit

The visit by Somalia's leader follows a stunning diplomatic thaw in recent weeks between Eritrea and Ethiopia

Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki (C) addresses a crowd behind safety glass at an celebrational event for at Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. EPA
Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki (C) addresses a crowd behind safety glass at an celebrational event for at Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. EPA

Eritrea says Somalia's president will visit the country on Saturday as yet another rivalry in the Horn of Africa region may be coming to an end. The two nations have not had diplomatic relations for nearly 15 years.

Eritrea's information minister announced the three-day visit of Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Twitter, saying it comes at the invitation of Eritrea's longtime leader Isaias Afwerki.

There was no immediate comment from Somalia's government.

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Eritrea remains under United Nations sanctions after alleged support for the Somalia-based Al Shabab extremist group, which continues to hold rural parts of Somalia and carry out high-profile attacks in the capital, Mogadishu. Eritrea denies supporting armed groups such as Al Shabab but Somalia has viewed the country with suspicion.

The visit by Somalia's leader follows a stunning diplomatic thaw in recent weeks between Eritrea and Ethiopia after more than two decades. Ethiopia under reformist new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed already has asked that the UN sanctions on Eritrea, one of the world's most reclusive nations, be dropped.

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

The changing relations in the Horn of Africa region are of interest to the wealthy Gulf states just across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Already they have been jostling for influence in the African nations along one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, including both Somalia and Eritrea.

The United Arab Emirates has played a role in the mending of relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia, this week hosting the leaders of both countries and praising their "bold" gestures.