Formal ties with Italy resumed

Eritrea and Italy have resumed formal diplomatic relations, eight months after Eritrea expelled Italy's ambassador from the country.

Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met in Rome last week, on the sidelines of World Food Summit. The official Shaebia website described the talks as "open and candid".

It was the first time the two men had met since the Italian ambassador, Antonio Bandini, was asked to leave the country after he protested against the government's detention of dissident politicians. Bandini was also the representative of the European Union in Eritrea.

Immediately after the expulsion, Eritrea’s ambassador to Italy was asked to leave Rome. The row intensified after EU diplomats in Eritrea were recalled by their governments for "consultations" on the situation.

During his visit to Rome, Afewerki also held talks with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the EU president, Romano Prodi, during which he discussed the recent border ruling with Ethiopia. He assured them that Eritrea was working towards a speedy demarcation of the new boundary, according to Eritrean media reports.

Before last year’s breakdown in diplomatic relations between the two countries, Italy was Eritrea’s largest donor.