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Red Sea Peace Initiatives: Saudi Arabia’s Role in the Eritrea-Ethiopia Rapprochement
Date: 2020-04-28
Author: Banafsheh Keynoush


In September 2018, the State of Eritrea and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia made a historic peace agreement that ended the twenty-year conflict between them. The agreement, otherwise known as the Jeddah Peace Pact, was finalized in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Concluded through international diplomatic efforts led by the African Union, the United States of America, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the pact succeeded in restoring peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia despite the failure of all previous international mediatory efforts. To sustain and consolidate the peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Kingdom initiated strategies to stabilize the two Horn countries, promote peace in the Horn region, and support collective Red Sea partnerships. The strategies are not risk free, and include targeted economic, commercial and security initiatives to ensure elite commitment to peace in Eritrea and Ethiopia. They also include support for the development of Red Sea ports and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Collectively, the strategies strengthen Gulf-Horn partnerships and extend Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 investment initiatives to Africa Vision 2030 projects for growth and development. Still, spoilers such as entrenched conflicts in the Horn and the Gulf region could compromise a strong Gulf-Horn-Red Sea alliance. But the urgent need for peace in Eritrea and Ethiopia, which led to the finalization of the pact, also demonstrated that there is no country other than Saudi Arabia located close to the two Horn nations with the demonstrated interest and resources to prevent future rivalries that could jeopardize the peace. This rationale drove Saudi Arabia to secure the pact, despite the transactional nature of the enterprise. Indeed, the Kingdom’s long history of supporting international peace initiatives between Eritrea and Ethiopia, explored here, along with Gulf-Horn human capital and joint ventures, were key to reviving the momentum toward peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia with the support of the international community.

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