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Egypt's FM to visit Ethiopia in show of 'good will'
Egypt's National Security Board calls on presidency to tone down allusions to war between Egypt and Ethiopia; foreign minister dispatched to Addis to seek and offer 'good will'
Dina Ezzat , Wednesday 12 Jun 2013
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Nile river
A traditional felucca sailing boat carries a cargo of hay as it transits the Nile river passing the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo: AP)

Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr is expected in Addis Ababa next week for talks with top Ethiopian officials over Ethiopia's building of a mega dam over the Blue Nile that some argue may impact Egypt’s historic share of Nile waters.

Amr is expected to underline in talks with Ethiopian interlocutors the need for Egypt and Ethiopia to work closely together to ensure that the proposed dam will have a minimal negative environmental impact and would take into consideration Egypt’s need for its full share of Nile water as per past agreements.

The visit of Amr comes against the backdrop of considerable Egyptian-Ethiopian tension. Ethiopian diplomats are complaining, particularly to the world at large, about what they qualify as “renewed threats of war by Egypt.”

On Monday, President Mohamed Morsi, during a speech to Islamist supporters at the Cairo Conference Centre, promised “blood” should Egypt’s share of the Nile water be undermined.

His statements come less than two weeks after a controversial presidential meeting with some opposition figures that was aired on television live without prior notification given. Some participants openly called on the president to pursue military and intelligence options in Ethiopia and the entire Horn of Africa, to block the construction of the dam.

During a national security meeting held at the presidential palace Tuesday, Morsi was advised by some of his aides to “tone down the volume” on the military option, as such rhetoric could damage Egypt’s standing and ability to request its legal rights vis-a-vis the dam are respected.

Such rights could include being able to demand assurances that the dam will be structurally sound, in order to avoid possible collapse. According to one informed source, Morsi was directly told that the Ethiopians know very well that the studies on the construction of the dam need more work and that the current design leaves much room for improvement, and that it is perfectly legitimate and legal for Egypt — and for that matter for Sudan — to refuse construction pending rectification of the design.

“The president was told that Egypt has many legal and diplomatic options that could include international arbitration or a call for a moratorium on the dam, and that threats of war weaken this case. He said that he just wanted to signal that Egypt cannot take any chances when it comes to its water share, given that it is already under the water poverty line,” said one source.

The source added that for over two decades Egypt had successfully blocked funds for the aspired-to Ethiopian dam by stressing safety concerns, environmental impact, and the legal rights of Egypt by virtue of international agreements — all “without having to make any threats of war.

"On the contrary, we were actually underlining our commitment to supporting Ethiopian development schemes that would not harm Egypt, and we actually meant what we said," the source commented.

Amr's delicate Addis mission

In Addis Ababa, Amr is expected to reiterate a similar line by telling his interlocutors that what Morsi meant during Monday's speech was that for Egypt, Nile water is a life or death matter, rather than threatening war as such.

“The visit itself is a show of good will and of a commitment to work together with our Ethiopian friends in a positive atmosphere in order to reach an agreement on how to serve Ethiopia’s development interests without compromising Egypt’s water needs or causing environmental damage to the Nile River,” said Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia Mohamed Idris.

Idris said that it is very important for Cairo to communicate this "fair message" to Ethiopian public opinion that seems only to be hearing news of threats of war without acknowledging Egyptian water concerns.

The Ethiopian public, according to Ethiopian diplomats, is enraged against Egypt not only due to the war threats, but also due to demonstrations staged around the Ethiopian embassy in Cairo and reported cases of "antagonism" to which "some Ethiopian citizens in Cairo have been subjected to."

According to one Ethiopian diplomat, officials in Cairo are telling the public in Egypt that Ethiopians want to take all the Nile water and leave Egyptians to die of thirst. “We don’t want to harm Egypt. We just want to build a dam and it is Egypt that is threatening war against us over this dam,” he said.

Addressing Ethiopian public opinion to explain Egyptian concerns is one thing Ayman Abdel-Wahhab, an expert on water resource matters at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, says should be a priority for Amr during his coming visit to Ethiopia.

“There is a misconception in Ethiopia that Egypt has abundance of water resources while this is not true at all because Egypt is a country that suffers from a serious and worsening water shortage,” he said.

Abdel-Wahhab also said that Ethiopian public opinion should also be aware that the “angry statements that were made here and there come as a reaction to the negative message that was delivered to Egypt when Addis decided to unilaterally divert the course of the Blue Nile last month.”

Late May, following the participation of Morsi in an African Union meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa announced the diversion of the Blue Nile as a step in the construction of the Renaissance Dam it is hoping to build within the next five years with a planned reservoir of 74 billion cubic metres of water for electricity generation purposes.

Egyptian officials acknowledge that the diversion made in May was only for trial purposes and that it is not the full required diversion but rather a symbolic one ahead of the full diversion that would be required for dam construction.

Ethiopian good will sought

“All construction work of any nature should be temporarily suspended pending an agreement with Egypt as required by international law that demands the consent of all basin states of any river for the construction of mega irrigation projects by any basin state,” Abdel-Wahhab said.

He added that this suspension of construction should be openly demanded by Amr during his talks in Addis next week, as a sign of good will on the Ethiopian side.

“I think that Egypt should demand the full consent of all basin states of the Nile River before this project is constructed, even though it would be built on the Blue Nile in what might not directly affect other upstream states,” he said.

Abdel-Wahhab is convinced that the visit of Amr to Addis offers a good opportunity to tell the world that Egypt is willing to listen to and work with Ethiopia. “But the world should also hear a clear message about the need for the interests of all basin states of the Nile to be preserved, to make sure that stability in this part of the world — host to considerable foreign investment — is not undermined.”





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tn.
16-06-2013 07:58pm
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hide, obsificate and even lie is the nature of the ethiopian government
In few days notice and without consultation with the people of ethiopia, the TPLF/EPRDF government dropped the ball on the people of ethiopia and suddenly included a Dam of such grand magnitude into its "five year" program of development. unless one understands what the TPLF/EPRDF is: an oligarchy that is both a party, a government and a totally opaque business conglomerate that runs 40% of the economy of the country all once. This is an entity where one man can sign a project of this size without the project even going through parliament. this is what happened with this project. rather than the war talk and rehotric, it is best that egypt help the people of ethiopia by directly providing them with all information available to itself because the 90k people of ethiopia have no faith in the objective assessment of the dam and its utility to the people of ethiopia in terms of its tangible and intangible costs and its implication on the $/kwh at the end of the project.
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13



pyramid
16-06-2013 01:05am
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negotation
belive or not ,the dame may take 100 years ,it will be real!the best option is a win win solution.
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12



Dani
15-06-2013 08:02pm
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Matured comments are required
Can we all leave this thing for some time and start the discussions again? This time, I'm hearing and reading many unhealthy comments from both sides. For both countries, assuming extreme positions can't help... For history, Ethiopia won direct and proxy war with Egypt... However, those wins haven't been achieved without a loss... In addition, we lost many grand mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters..... Egypt also won us in making us suffer for the droughts and tarnish the pictures that we have internationally... So far, either country was considered as a threat for the other for long years.... I think, this generation, regardless of our political and religious views, need to come to our sense and think about growing together.... I really appreciate the ecological concept.... please read and present us the logical arguments.... Ethiopia - the government and people - do love all Egyptians so long as they care about us.....
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11



MIDDLE GROUND
15-06-2013 07:16pm
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HISTORIC WRONG NOT HISTORIC RIGHT
The foreign minister should rather stay in Cairo if he is to Addis to repeat the mortal arguments of barbarians period.MOST importantly there is no more legal framework for Egyptians to depend on as justifications of their uncivilized approach.why? They themselves had abrogated the 1929 agreement through the 1959 treaty.1959? uhhhhhhh legally died when Sudan declared its support for the construction of dam in Ethiopia against the very objective of the treaty it self.WHAT terminates an accord ,of what ever type, between bilateral or multilateral org? FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES! Therefore, the 1959 agreement,to which Ethiopia is not a party and legally not obliged to accept is null and void from now onwards!
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10



PlanetEthiopia.com
15-06-2013 05:52pm
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It is Ethiopia's God Given Right!
After all, ask Ethiopians, does Egypt give away its natural oil and gas wealth to other countries for free? No, so why should Ethiopia permit its primary water resource to be freely accessed by others at the cost of its own pressing development needs?" A Quote from PressTV.
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Misge
14-06-2013 03:57pm
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Ethiopia
As HISTORY TOLD US no enemy defeated Ethiopia in the past centuries. God gave this strength to Ethiopia from the time of the creation of our world up to the time of doomsday. This is GIVEN TRUTH. For Egyptian politicians the only thing they have to do is accepting the construction of the Great Dam. If they have any question regarding impact on the dam they can raise at any time they want. This time is 21st century. Colonized supported agreements are only used for colonized countries. Not for Ethiopia. We have to come to one point through the modern approach. On my side weapon supported politics is backward politics and it did not bring solution as HISTORY TOLD US so far. ETHIOPIA IS THE SOURCE AND THE LARGEST CONTRIBUTOR OF THE NILE.Therefor, we have to use it in equitable manner.
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8



Muluneh
14-06-2013 12:35pm
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Where is my comment? Not displaying here (only 5 of them here)
Where is my comment?
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7



Mohamed Aman
13-06-2013 05:38pm
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can words hurt more than gun
I have seen more war words from Egypt for the past few weeks. It is very shameful for the gov't in Addis ignoring such threats. the gov't here in Addis is pro Egyptian that is why it is building a hydroelectric dam with huge amount of money to benefit its friends, Egyptian gov't. we know Ethiopia will not benefit from such project which the gov't said consume no water. however, this makes Ethiopia more vulnerable for the threat of Egypt. Rather Ethiopia should divert the river to Somalia and some other neighbours or to Red sea to avoid such national security problem.
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6



James
13-06-2013 03:16pm
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Cooperation.
Egypt has to stop "not a single drop" mentality and work with ethiopia to come to a common ground. Ethiopians have to keep in mind how important the Nile is to Egypt as well. I think an international medietor should bring the two sides to the table and find a final solution. Go Africa!
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5



shewit
12-06-2013 11:31pm
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Better late than never
What ever Egypt decides, the quest for development and equitable share of the Nile river would continue on the Ethiopian side. Did Egypt and Sudan asked for consent of the other riparian countries when they built dams and irrigation as they pleased? No! What would be the response of Egypt had it been on Ethiopian shoes? Would Egypt respect any colonial deal in its absence while its interests are compromised? I don't think so. It is in all the riparian countries interest to look into news era instead of going back to colonial treaties which Ethiopia is illegible to.
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