ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- Africa's largest annual road race, the Great Ethiopian Run (GER), is expected to attract four Eritrean athletes, the first time Eritrean athletes will participate in an international sports event in Ethiopia in 20 years, an Ethiopian official said on Friday.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a war from 1998 to 2000 that left an estimated 70,000 people dead on both sides. Despite a December 2000 peace deal ending the war, the two countries remained in a state of armed standoff until June.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in Addis Ababa in April and kicked off peace moves in June, agreeing to hand back disputed areas to Eritrea.
Since then the relations between the two Horn of Africa countries have improved markedly, with diplomatic ties, trade and phone links restored, flights resumed and their common borders re-opened.
Ermias Ayele, GER race director, told Xinhua that the four Eritrean athletes are expected to attend the 10 kms race which will be held on Sunday.
"I hope to see Ethiopian and Eritrean athletes competing with each other, we expect a good challenge from Eritrean athletes to our athletes, sports has a big power to unite people," Ayele said.
"With the four Eritrean athletes expected to compete at GER, the next step will be to send Ethiopian athletes to compete at Eritrean athletics competitions and we could even in the future organize an athletics event in Eritrea," Ayele said.
The GER was inaugurated in 2001 by Ethiopian running legend Haile Gebreselassie as part of his efforts to turn running from an elite sport into a hobby for the masses.