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World Cup round of 16 qualification scenarios

With the second series of World Cup group games completed on Sunday, qualification for the knockout rounds is now clearer.

The top two teams in each group go into the last 16. In the case of teams finishing level on points, FIFA has put in place seven tie-breakers starting with goal difference and then the number of goals scored in all group matches.

If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their rankings are determined as follows:

* points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;

* goal difference in the group matches between the teams concerned;

* number of goals scored in the group matches between the teams concerned;

* fair play points determined by red and yellow cards at the tournament.

* drawing of lots.

Here is where things stand in each group going into final round-robin matches.

Group A

Russia and Uruguay are through and all that is left to decide is who will top the group when they meet on Monday. Russia have a superior goal difference so a win or draw will send the hosts through as group winners to face the runner-up in Group B.

Neither Egypt nor Saudi Arabia have any points but with the Saudis shipping six goals, anything but a win will see them finish last.

Group B

Spain and Portugal sit top of the group on four points with Iran on three and Morocco eliminated with no points so far.

Spain and Portugal are also level on goal difference and goals scored and, since they drew, if their final results are the same the group could be decided by fair play points.

Spain have the advantage at the moment with one booking against the two of Portugal.

Portugal need at least a point from their final match against Iran to guarantee a place in the knockout round. Iran would secure their spot with a win and could also go through with a draw if Spain lose to Morocco.

Spain face winless Morocco with a point needed to guarantee progress.

The winner of Group B plays the runner-up in Group A, either Russia or Uruguay.

Group C

France, on six points, top the group and have secured passage to the next round but will need a point against second-placed Denmark (four points) in their final match to clinch first place. Denmark could finish first, second or third.

A Denmark loss coupled with an Australia win over Peru, who have yeat to earn a point, could see the Socceroos sneak through on goal difference. Since Denmark and Australia drew, they too could be split by fair play.

Australia, with three yellow cards, currently have the edge in this respect on the Danes, who have four.

Peru have been eliminated but will finish third with a win.

The winner of Group C will meet second place in Group D.

Group D

All sorts of outcomes are possible here with Croatia, on six points, through but the other three teams still in the hunt.

Croatia will top the group if they beat or draw with Iceland.

Nigeria, on three points, will secure their spot in the last 16 with a victory over Argentina, who sit bottom of the group on one point behind Iceland on goal difference.

A draw may also be enough for Nigeria even if Iceland beat Croatia, depending on goal difference.

To go through, Argentina need to beat Nigeria while hoping Iceland lose to or draw with Croatia. If Iceland and Argentina both win, to move to four points, they will be split by goal difference.

Iceland must win to have any chance but also need the other results to go their way.

The Group D winner will face the Group C runner-up.

Group E

Only one thing is certain in Group E and that is Costa Rica, without a point, will be going home.

Brazil’s last-gasp win over Costa Rica took them alongside Switzerland on four points, with Serbia on three.

Wins or draws for Brazil against Serbia and Switzerland against Costa Rica will send both through.

Serbia must beat Brazil to qualify but a draw could see them through if the Swiss are beaten by Costa Rica by more than one goal.

The winners of Group E face the second-placed team in Group F.

Group F

This was another group that changed dramatically after a stoppage-time goal as Germany, facing potential elimination, pushed themselves right back into the mix by beating Sweden.

Mexico, on six points, are in the driving seat, with Germany and Sweden both on three.

Mexico will qualify with a win or draw against Sweden. They can also move on with a loss to the Swedes if Germany lose to or draw with South Korea, who have no points.

Germany will go through with any win should Sweden fail to beat Mexico.

Another scenario could see Germany advancing on a better goal difference with a victory over South Korea even if Sweden beat Mexico.

Sweden can qualify with a win over Mexico and a Germany loss to South Korea. If both Sweden and Germany win it is possible for the Swedes to advance on goal difference.

Despite two losses South Korea still have a slim chance of advancing but they would need to beat Germany and hope both that Sweden lose to Mexico and that the goal difference goes their way.

The winner of Group F will meet the runner-up in Group E.

Group G

England and Belgium are guaranteed to progress but their finishing positions will be decided by their meeting on Thursday.

Both on six points, they have identical goal totals so a draw would mean top spot going to the best-behaved team. England are currently on two yellows to the three of Belgium.

Tunisia and Panama have no points ahead of their meeting, where a draw would secure third place for the North Africans.

Group H

Japan and Senegal will advance with draws against Poland and Colombia respectively. Should Senegal and Japan both draw with the same score, they will be split by fair play; Senegal have five yellow cards to Japan’s three.

Colombia will progress if they beat Senegal and a draw will suffice if Poland beat Japan. Poland have been eliminated.

The top two teams in the group will face either England or Belgium.

Grenade blast rock Ethiopia rally for PM Abiy Ahmed

An explosion has struck a large rally by supporters of Ethiopia’s new, reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa, killing at least one person and wounding scores, including 10 who are in critical condition.

Abiy had just wrapped up his speech at the capital’s Meskel Square before tens of thousands of people on Saturday when the explosion went off, sending droves of supporters towards the stage as the prime minister left hurriedly.

Six suspects are under investigation for involvement in the attack, according to police.

The deputy commissioner of Addis Ababa police commission and eight others are also in custody over shortcomings in security, state media reported.

In an address broadcast afterwards on state television, Abiy said the blast was orchestrated by groups who wanted to undermine the rally but did not name them.

“The people who did this are anti-peace forces. You need to stop doing this. You weren’t successful in the past and you won’t be successful in the future.”

He said several people had been killed, but Ethiopia’s Health Minister Amir Aman later adjusted that statement, saying one person had passed away at Addis Ababa’s Black Lion Hospital. At least 153 people were wounded, 10 critically, the health minister added.

In an earlier post on Twitter, Fitsum Arega, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said unidentified assailants launched a grenade attack on the rally.

“Some whose heart is filled with hate attempted a grenade attack. HE PM Abiy is safe. All the casualties are martyrs of love & peace. HE PM sends his condolences to the victims. The perpetrators will be brought to justice,” Fitsum said.

“I was in front of the stage when the blast occurred to my right. We rush to that direction to see what happened and I saw people seriously wounded and blood all around that area,” Dereje reported.

“Police said more than 100 people were wounded and 15 of them were admitted to hospital with serious injuries,” he added.

Footage of the rally showed Abiy being rushed from the scene by security guards.

The state broadcaster quickly cut away from coverage of the rally, which has broken up with people singing, chanting and going back to their homes.

Ambulances were at the scene in the crowded Meskel Square in Addis Ababa where the prime minister had been addressing thousands of supporters.

The explosion occurred shortly after Abiy finished speaking and was waving to the crowd.

Later on Saturday, an explosion rocked a stadium in Zimbabwe where President Emmerson Mnangagwa was addressing a campaign rally.

The Zimbabwe Herald reported that the 75-year-old president was not hurt and evacuated from the White City stadium, where he had been speaking to supporters in the run-up to next month’s vote.

At the rally in Addis Ababa, Ethiopians had packed the square in a show of support for Abiy’s reformist agenda, with numbers unseen in recent years in the East African nation.

As part of the promised reforms, Abiy has announced the release of tens of thousands of prisoners, the opening of state-owned companies to private investment and the embrace of a peace deal with rival Eritrea.

Eritrea condemned the grenade attack, the country’s ambassador to Japan wrote on Twitter.

“#Eritrea strongly condemns the attempt to incite violence, in today’s AA demonstration for peace, 1st of its kind in history of #Ethiopia,” Ambassador Estifanos Afeworki said on Twitter.

Ethiopia and Eritrea have long been at loggerheads over a border dispute. But Abiy stunned Ethiopians this month by saying he was ready to fully implement a peace deal with Eritrea that was signed in 2000 after a two-year war.

Addis Ababa had previously refused to implement the agreement without further talks.

Jihadists attacks on Mozambique threatens gas-fuelled future

After 180 trillion cubic feet (5.1 trillion cubic metres) of natural gas were discovered off the country’s northeastern shore, Mozambique entertained dreams of following Qatar down the path towards wealth. The government even predicted that by 2035, the country’s GDP per head could increase sevenfold.

But the southeast African country’s golden vision has been thrown into doubt by an explosion of bloodthirsty assaults by a shadowy jihadist group in the region where the industry plans to base its hub.

Since October, more than 30 people have been killed in brazen assaults on unarmed villagers.

Security forces have rushed reinforcements to be area yet seem powerless to stem the attacks. Terrorised, many civilians have fled their homes and a cloud hangs over the great expansion plans.

US oil and gas giant Anadarko, the largest exploration company in the region, has invested $4 billion (3.4 billion euros) so far — it plans to put in $20 billion over the lifetime of the gasfields.

But following a US embassy alert on June 8 that warned of an imminent attack on the regional gas hub Palma, Anadarko temporary suspended some activities and moved affected workers and contractors to a secure site.

Canada’s Wentworth Resources has already suffered delays to its projects as a result of the insecurity, forcing it to seek a year-long extension for its initial exploration.

In its successful application to the authorities, Wentworth said the attacks had “prevented safe access to the area for Wentworth staff and contractors”.

‘No threats specific to project’

There have been more than 10 attacks on villages since October, featuring beheadings and arson. None has targeted gas operations.

“Due to the attacks, we took additional measures to protect not only the oil and gas companies operating in that area, but also to protect the communities,” said Joaquim Sive, the police commander in Cabo Delgado.

Eric Morier-Genoud, a researcher at Queen’s University Belfast, said any attack against the gas “majors” would be an “escalation from which the jihadists would come out the losers”.

“At this point… based on the information we have, we classify the attacks as an insignificant risk to the economy,” Rogerio Zandamela, the governor of Mozambique’s central bank, told AFP.

In contrast to this, the central bank did consider a spate of attacks carried out by a militia loyal to the main opposition Renamo party in the country’s centre in 2015 and 2016 as an economic risk.

“There was much more clarity about the conflict in central Mozambique… We cannot equate the north with the south,” Zandamela said. “The information available on the conflict in Cabo Delgado is very limited.”

Tighter security

Police have stepped up security around gas projects — particularly those close to areas that have come under attack, national police spokesman Inacio Dina told AFP.

An official at Anadarko, who declined to be named, said “There have been no threats specific to our project. However, it is a cause for concern, and therefore, as operations continue, we have undertaken appropriate measures.”

The company has a gas operations camp in a forest on the Afungi Peninsula.

Police and army units have established a command post in the forest following the attacks.

But a source at Anadarko told AFP that the firm has also stepped up its own security efforts, increasing its private protection force by two-thirds — a move that will have an impact on costs.

Despite such problems, foreign investors for now still have a big appetite for a share of Mozambique’s gas treasures.

Japan’s Tokyo Gas and Britain’s Centrica inked supply deals with Anadarko on June 15 — just a day after a machete attack on the village of Ibu.

Even so, experts say the instability in the northeast could still prove costly. It could cut into the dividend that Mozambique expects from the huge find.

“(The gas projects) are at risk in their early stages, as attacks can adversely affect logistics. Materials must reach Palma by land,” said Maputo-based political science researcher Joao Pereira.

“The insurgency is most likely to delay rather than derail development of the sector,” said Ed Hobey-Hamsher, an analyst at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

“Attacks will certainly make the investment more expensive because of security needs reducing revenues for the state.”

Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa escape death after blast hit campaign rally

An explosion rocked a stadium where Zimbabwe’s president was addressing a campaign rally on Saturday, state media reported, saying he was not hurt and was evacuated from the scene. Witnesses said several people appeared to be injured.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was whisked to a state house in Bulawayo, where he had been speaking ahead of next month’s election, the Zimbabwe Herald reported.

Witnesses told The Associated Press that the blast occurred as Mnangagwa had just finished addressing the crowd and was leaving the podium.

Footage posted online showed Mnangagwa waving to the crowd, turning to step off the podium and walking into the open-sided VIP tent, where seconds later the explosion occurred. People ducked and screamed and smoke billowed.

State television immediately cut its broadcast.

The explosion came just hours after a similar attack in Ethiopia, where a blast killed at least one person and injured scores just after the new prime minister addressed a huge rally in the capital.

Presidential spokesman George Charamba told The Zimbabwe Herald that investigations were underway, and pointed out that there have been “multiple attempts” on Mnangagwa’s life over the years.

Mnangagwa took power in November after his former ally, longtime leader Robert Mugabe, stepped down under military pressure.

The July 30 election will be the first without Mugabe in the southern African nation since independence in 1980.

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, is traditionally an opposition stronghold.

South Sudan says rebel leader Machar not rejoining government

South Sudan offered to allow a rebel representative to join its government on Friday, but ruled out Riek Machar, saying they had “had enough” of the rebel leader after five years of civil war.

“Machar cannot be part of government. We have had enough of him,” Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth told a news conference in the Ethiopian capital.

Despite that dismissal, Lueth said South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir would meet his arch-rival and former vice president Machar for face-to-face talks again next week.

The two men met in Addis Ababa this week for the first time since a peace deal collapsed spectacularly in 2016, leading to the deaths of hundreds of people in fighting.

The war that broke out in 2013, less than two years after oil-rich South Sudan gained independence from Sudan, has killed tens of thousands and forced millions from their homes.

Footage released by the Ethiopian government showed Kiir and Machar shaking hands and hugging in a three-way embrace with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed this week.

Machar’s rebel group SPLM-IO issued a statement calling the remarks from minister Lueth highly immature. “This bad politics is from a known peace spoiler and is only intended to derail the peace process,” it said.

On Thursday the group condemned current efforts by regional bloc IGAD to convene meetings to discuss peace. “Workshops” will not stop the war and IGAD’s overall model is “unrealistic”, the rebels said.

Despite the mutual recriminations, Lueth said Kiir would meet Machar again next week in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.

“Preparations are afoot to give a new impetus to this new round of talks and ensure a successful outcome,” Sudan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said next week’s talks would be convened by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a key player in South Sudan’s history.

JUNE 30 DEADLINE

Before the people of South Sudan voted for secession and it declared independence in 2011, the region fought for more than two decades against Khartoum’s forces, led by Bashir.

The international community, in particular the United States, played a major role in supporting the process that led to South Sudan gaining independence.

Last month the United Nations Security Council voted to renew some sanctions on South Sudan through mid-July and to consider imposing travel bans and asset freezes on six South Sudanese leaders unless the country’s conflict stops by June 30.

Minister Lueth said Machar’s group was emboldened by sanctions against the South Sudan government and said the international community should levy measures against the rebels too.

Before arriving in Addis Ababa this week, Machar had been under house arrest in South Africa since 2016.

A spokesman for the rebel leader told Reuters Machar would travel to Khartoum on Sunday to attend the talks convened by Sudan.

Sudan is a member of IGAD, which has led the faltering peace process for South Sudan for several years. IGAD persuaded the warring sides to sign a ceasefire in December, but violence resumed within hours.

Haftar force dislodge rival militia, recapture key Libyan oil ports

A force led by Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar said Thursday it had recaptured two key oil ports, a week after they were seized by a rival militia in a blow to crucial exports.

Armed groups led by militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran on June 14 attacked two eastern oil ports controlled by Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.

Haftar on Thursday announced an offensive to recapture the terminals after a week of clashes that had damaged vital infrastructure and slashed crude output, the lifeblood of Libya’s economy.

“Our armed forces have full control of the Ras Lanuf region,” LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari said later, adding they had also retaken the Al-Sidra terminal.

The violence in coastal Libya’s oil crescent, some 650 kilometres (400 miles) east of Tripoli, has caused “catastrophic damage”, according to the National Oil Company.

Coming just weeks after rival Libyan leaders met in Paris and agreed to hold nationwide elections in December, the clashes have underscored how little the political push has affected the situation on the ground.

Libya has been wracked by conflict since the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising, with rival governments and militias competing for authority and control of key infrastructure, particularly oil facilities.

Damage to infrastructure

Haftar, addressing his forces in an audio message on Thursday, said that “zero hour has passed” to “crush the enemy”.

Haftar accused Jadhran of “allying with the devil” and called Thursday’s operation a “sacred invasion to cleanse the land and restore justice”.

Jadhran’s Petroleum Facilities Guard had for years controlled the terminals and blocked exports, but was forced out by the LNA in 2016.

Last week, Jadhran, whose Al-Magharba tribe hails from the region, said in a video that he had formed an alliance to retake the terminals.

The LNA, which is opposed to an internationally recognised government based in Tripoli, responded with “a major offensive” by ground and air forces to oust “the militias of Jadhran and his allies”.

Sources close to the LNA have reported that Jadhran joined forces with the Benghazi Defence Brigades, made up of Islamist fighters ousted from the main eastern city by the LNA.

The US State Department on Wednesday condemned the assault by Jadhran’s forces and the “ongoing violence that has damaged Libya’s vital oil infrastructure and disrupted oil exports”.

Libya’s economy relies heavily on oil, with production at 1.6 million barrels per day under Kadhafi.

His ouster saw production fall to about 20 percent of that level, before recovering to more than one million bpd by the end of 2017.

The head of the National Oil Company told AFP on Wednesday that the violence had also hit natural gas output and had slashed oil production by nearly half.

Mustafa Sanalla said the clashes “will ultimately result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs, and billions in lost sales opportunities”.

On Monday, the NOC said fires caused by the clashes had destroyed two crude tanks — reducing storage capacity at the Ras Lanuf terminal by 400,000 barrels

Ex-staff says MSF workers in Africa used ‘very young’ prostitutes

Some senior staff working for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Africa have allegedly used “very young” local prostitutes, the BBC reported on Thursday, citing former staff members of the renowned charity.

The not-for-profit group said it took the allegations seriously – which according to the BBC involved logistical staff, and not doctors or nurses – but said it had so far been unable to confirm the claims and urged anyone with information to come forward.

The aid industry has been shaken by reports of sexual wrongdoing since it emerged in February that Oxfam staff paid for sex in Haiti during a relief mission after a 2010 earthquake.

A former employee based in MSF’s London office told the BBC she had seen a senior staff member bring girls back to MSF accommodation while posted in Kenya.

“The girls were very young and rumoured to be prostitutes,” she said, adding that it was “implicit” that they were there for sex.

She said some of the older, long-standing male aid workers took advantage of their positions.

“I felt that, with some of the older guys, there was definitely an abuse of power,” she said.

“They’d been there for a long time and took advantage of their exalted status as a Western aid worker.”

She questioned what the charity knew, saying: “There’s definitely a feeling that certain predatory men were seen as too big to fail.”

Another female employee who worked with HIV patients in central Africa said the use of local sex workers was widespread.

“There was this older colleague, who actually moved a woman into the (charity) compound. It was pretty obvious that she was a prostitute but he’d call her his girlfriend,” she said.

A third whistleblower described how a senior colleague boasted of trading medication for sex with girls in Ebola-hit Liberia.

“He said, ‘Oh it’s so easy. It’s so easy to barter medication with these easy girls in Liberia’,” she told the programme. “He was suggesting lots of the young girls who had lost their parents to the Ebola crisis, that they would do anything sexual in return for medication.”

The BBC said it had not been able to verify that particular allegation. In an email to FRANCE 24, the head of press for MSF UK stringently denied the claim that medicines have been traded for sex, a practice she said would be “completely abhorrent”.

In all, eight female ex-MSF workers came forward in the BBC report, saying the charity, which employs 42,000 people worldwide, has a “toxic” culture.

In a statement, the agency said, “We do not tolerate abuse, harassment or exploitation within MSF.”

“We are sorry for any instances where people have been subjected to harassment, abuse or otherwise mistreated and/or felt that it was not adequately dealt with.”

“We know that MSF is not immune to these issues and we take any reports seriously,” the charity’s statement added.

But it said that “based on the information provided, we have been unable to confirm the specific allegations”.

“We would urge anyone with any concerns to report them via MSF’s confidential whistleblowing mechanisms so that we can take action,” it said.

MSF said 20 people were sacked in 2017 for sexual abuse or harassment, and 10 people the year before.

Survivors say 220 migrants drowned off Libya

Survivors have reported that about 220 migrants drowned off the coast of Libya in the last few days while trying to reach Europe, putting the death toll this year on that route to more than 1,000, the United Nations said on Thursday.

The Libyan coast guard, meanwhile, picked up 762 migrants trying to reach Italy in rubber boats during the past two days alone, its spokesman said.

The North African country is a key departure point for migrants fleeing wars and poverty who are trying to reach Europe, though crossings have dropped sharply since last July due to a more active coast guard presence with support from the European Union.

Only five people survived the capsizing of a boat carrying 100 people on Tuesday, while the same day a rubber craft with 130 passengers sank, leading to 70 people drowning, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.

On Wednesday, a boat of migrants who were rescued reported that more than 50 people traveling with them had perished at sea, it said.

“UNHCR is dismayed at the ever-growing numbers of refugees and migrants losing their lives at sea and is calling for urgent international action to strengthen rescue at sea efforts by all relevant and capable actors, including NGOs and commercial vessels, throughout the Mediterranean,” the agency said.

Libya’s coast guard picked up 680 African migrants on Thursday alone from at least five inflatable boats near its western coast, a spokesman said.

“The coast guard rescued 301 migrants early this morning, including three women and 46 children from 12 different sub-Saharan countries,” its spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters.

“The illegal migrants were on board two big rubber boats,” Qassem said. “The engines of the two boats stopped working in the middle of sea.”

He later said the coast guard had also recovered three bodies and rescued 142 illegal migrants some 25 miles off Tripoli’s eastern Qarabulli town after their boat foundered.

Qassem added that 237 illegal migrants including two children and three women had been rescued from two rubber boats off Qarabulli.

On Wednesday, one body was recovered and a group of 82 migrants were rescued off Tripoli’s eastern Tajoura suburb, he said.

Most migrants try to head across the Mediterranean toward Italy, hoping they will be picked up by ships run by aid groups and taken there, although many drown before they are rescued.

Earlier this month, however, Italy’s anti-immigrant interior minister Matteo Salvini vowed to no longer let charity ships offload rescued migrants in Italy, leaving one ship stranded at sea for several days with more than 600 migrants until Spain offered them safe harbor.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will try on Sunday to persuade other EU leaders to agree upon a common policy on migrants although her chances of winning support from all 28 member states are deemed slim.

U.S imposes more visa ban on several DR Congo officials

The United States said on Thursday it had imposed visa bans on several senior officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo for corruption tied to the country’s electoral process to send a “strong signal” about the need for a peaceful transfer of power.

Washington declined to identify the individuals, saying it was not obligated to reveal them based on “foreign policy considerations.”

“Today’s actions send a strong signal that the U.S. government is committed to fighting corruption, to supporting credible elections that lead to DRC’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of power,” the State Department said.

The move comes before elections scheduled in DRC for Dec. 23. There are concerns, however, that President Joseph Kabila, who succeeded his assassinated father Laurent in 2001, could delay the vote to seek a third elected term.

The visa ban comes after the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler on June 15, who it said had amassed a fortune through corrupt mining and oil deals in the DRC, using his close friendship with Kabila.

Sasha Lezhnev, deputy policy director at the nonprofit rights group Enough Project called Thursday’s visa ban an important step “to dissuade Kabila from putting his name on the ballot and help ensure a credible election.”

“Several senior Congolese officials involved in corruption travel frequently to the U.S., so the visa ban is an important step,” said Lezhnev. “They or the businesses they partner with also use U.S. banks to process corrupt commercial deals, so the U.S. and EU should enact stronger sanctions on their corporate networks to target their assets.”

U.S. welcomes Ethiopia-Eritrea peace moves

The United States is encouraged by recent progress Ethiopia and Eritrea have made toward resolving their longstanding differences, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.

The two African countries waged a border war from 1998-2000 that killed tens of thousands of people. Disputes over the still-militarized frontier, in particular the town of Badme, have kept the two sides at loggerheads.

On Wednesday, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki raised hopes of a breakthrough in the conflict by describing recent peace overtures from Ethiopia as “positive signals.”

He was responding to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s pledge earlier this month to honor all the terms of a 2000 peace deal, which would include ceding Badme to Eritrea.

Isaias said he was sending a delegation to Addis Ababa to understand Abiy’s position and “chart out a plan.”

Isaias and Abiy “have demonstrated courageous leadership by taking these steps toward peace,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The United States looks forward to a full normalization of relations and the realization of our shared aspirations for both countries to enjoy enduring peace and development,” it said.

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