The rapprochement between the two neighbors could have far-reaching consequences for improving the stability of the Horn of Africa, which is home to several conflicts and environmental crises.

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed traveled Sunday to Eritrea, once a bitter adversary, and agreed to normalize ties after an unprecedented summit.

The rapprochement between the two neighbors could have far-reaching consequences for improving the stability of the Horn of Africa, which is home to several conflicts and environmental crises.

The two nations, sworn enemies for two decades, fought a brutal war from 1998 to 2000 in which at least 70,000 people were killed. In the intervening years, the two sides have clashed repeatedly and supported rival rebel movements.

Abiy was hugged by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki at the airport in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, and they smiled and laughed as they strode past the uniformed band and honor guard.

Residents of Asmara on Sunday took to the streets, waving palm fronds and the flags of the two nations. Videos posted on social media showed Eritrean women singing for peace along the city’s main boulevards.

The friendly welcome set the tone for the visit as the two men were shown several times on Eritrean state television smiling together before announcing at an evening banquet that relations will be normalized.

The two countries will reopen embassies and restore flight links. Landlocked Ethiopia will look to start using Eritrea’s Red Sea ports.

Direct telephone lines had been restored between the two countries Sunday afternoon for the first time in two decades.

“There is no longer a border between Eritrea and Ethiopia, because a bridge of love has destroyed it,” Abiy said at the dinner.

The rapprochement between the two countries followed the ascent to power in April of Abiy, who at 41 is one of the youngest leaders on the continent.

Abiy surprised his nation this past month when he announced that Ethiopia would “fully accept and implement” a 2000 peace deal that was supposed to end the border conflict with Eritrea.

“Love is greater than modern weapons like tanks and missiles. Love can win hearts, and we have seen a great deal of it today here in Asmara,” Abiy said.

Abiy has already turned Ethiopia’s stagnant political scene on its head, and has frequently preached about love and unity in his speeches in Ethiopia.

His government has released prominent political prisoners and given amnesty to those charged with treason and other political crimes.

The second-most-populous country in Africa, Ethiopia also plans to sell parts of its state-owned enterprises, including the national airline, a move that its ruling party opposed for decades.

The convoy of vehicles that carried him from the airport through downtown Asmara was swamped by loudly cheering crowds that spilled onto the road and slowed the cars to a crawl.

“Peace is everything; it is health, development, education,” an elderly man wearing a turban and sunglasses told Eritrean state television the morning of the visit. “Everyone in the world loves peace.”

“The Eritrean people have today got the chance to express their true love and emotion for Ethiopians,” Isaias said at the evening banquet, according to news agencies.

“We can imagine that the decision the prime minister of Ethiopia took was not a simple one. But we can assure you we will face the future together. We will work as one,” he said.

Ethiopia, which has been a landlocked nation since Eritrea achieved independence in the early 1990s, has a strategic interest in a key Eritrean port, Assab, which it had heavily relied on before the start of the border war. The United Arab Emirates has used a military base in Eritrea to deploy its soldiers for the war in Yemen, which sits across the Red Sea from Eritrea.

The two countries still have not agreed on a demarcated border.

The change in relations has stunned observers.

Hallelujah Lulie, a political analyst specializing in the Horn of Africa, said the two countries had come to the realization that the status quo — no war, no peace — could not continue.

Hallelujah added that mediation over the past month from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have increasingly close ties to Eritrea, probably helped create the breakthrough.

“It will radically redraw the geopolitical map of the Horn of Africa and East Africa,” he said. “The rivalry between Ethiopia and Eritrea was reflected in conflicts in South Sudan, Somalia, even sometimes up to Chad.”

Nearly 30 years ago, when Eritrea was a province of Ethiopia, the future leaders of the two countries were comrades in the struggle against Ethiopia’s communist dictatorship.

But after the overthrow of the dictatorship and Eritrea’s declaration of independence, relations soured despite close cultural and linguistic ties.

The normalization of ties notwithstanding, the complex process of returning disputed territory and figuring out what happens to the people living there still lies ahead.

Under Abiy, Ethiopia appears to be embarking on a path of reform, but Eritrea has been characterized as one of the most authoritarian and closed states in Africa.

For much of the past 20 years, Eritrea has been focused on its conflict with Ethiopia, with substantial spending on its military and indefinite mandatory military service that has led hundreds of thousands of Eritreans to try to immigrate to Europe.

The “no war, no peace” stalemate between the two countries, coupled with a government crackdown on dissent, has contributed to Eritrea’s economic and social isolation in recent decades. Many of its young and able-bodied citizens have fled the country, choosing treacherous routes along the Sahara over military service at home.

At the height of Europe’s migration crisis, Eritreans were among the largest group landing on Mediterranean shores.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 170,000 Eritrean refugees live in Ethiopia.

The end of the conflict could open the way not only for the end of mandatory conscription in Eritrea but also a return to democratic provisions in the constitution that were suspended, including elections.

“There won’t be radical change, but some reforms could be on the horizon,” Hallelujah said.

On Sunday, Abiy expressed condolences to the families of Eritrean soldiers killed in the war.

“You deserve peace and calm,” Abiy said at the dinner Sunday addressing Eritreans in Tigrinya, a language spoken in both countries. “Enough with war and the talk of war.”