Since 2008, the two countries (Ethiopia and Qatar) had severed political and economic relations until recently.
Accusations made by Ethiopia on the nefarious activities of the tiny Arab Gulf state of Qatar in fomenting political instability in the horn region and supporting terrorists groups were the reasons for the parting of ways.
Following discussions between the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Qatar officials in London early last year, the two countries relations has changed for the better. The Prime Minister of Qatar paid a visit to Ethiopia in November 2012, while the Emir made a historic visit to Ethiopia for the first time this week. The Ethiopian Prime Minister met with the Emir in Doha early this year.
A Qatari delegation led by their Monarch visited Ethiopia for the first time since Qatar became an independent country, following the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries a few months ago.
Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who is the first Qatari leader to visit Ethiopia, met with President Girma Woldegeorgis and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Wednesday evening at the National Palace.
Since the beginning of 2008, the two countries severed diplomatic ties when Ethiopia accused the Gulf state of destabilizing the Horn of Africa by supporting armed opposition groups in the region, including Ethiopia’s arch foe, Eritrea.
On Wednesday evening agreements were signed in the fields of Culture, Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research, as well as Qatar Airways flights services, encouragement and reciprocal protection of investments, avoidance of double taxation and prevention of tax evasion. Since the two countries resumed diplomatic relations last year, the Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani and the Ethiopian PM have paid visits to each other’s countries within a few months.
Pundits said that Qatar, the tiny but energy-rich country with a population of 1.9 million, wants to establish strong relations with Ethiopia. The visit is considered a significant development in Ethiopian-Gulf Arab relations, in general and Qatar-Ethiopian relations, in particular.
After the signing ceremony, Dina Mufti (Amb), spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), informed journalists that the cooperation agreements were in the sphere of agriculture, tourism, education, culture and in the development of sugar factories. He said that the two leaders have also discussed regional issues, particularly about stability in Somalia and Sudan.
In February, when Prime Minister Hailemariam visited Qatar, he was interviewed by a Qatari newspaper and said that Ethiopia had a strategic and evolving relationship with Qatar, which he described as an important country at regional and international level. He noted that there was a cooperation agreement between Qatar and Ethiopia to resolve conflicts in the region and said this would deliver positive results. Recently, both countries have opened embassies in their respective capitals. Qatar has become quite influential in world affairs, particularly on issues concerning the Middle East where it has played an important role in the Arab Spring and supported the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and now in Syria.