Egyptian presidential aide for foreign affairs Essam El-Haddad (Photo: Ahram)
Egypt's foreign policy advisor to the presidency, Essam Haddad, stated late Wednesday that "If Egypt's strategic foreign policy puts Africa as a priority, then bilateral Egypt-Ethiopia relations come at the core of this issue."
A statement published on Haddad's Facebook page described Ethiopia as a crucial country in the African continent and one of its emerging economies. It is also a primary actor in the Horn of Africa region, which is undergoing economic and strategic changes that affect Egypt's national security.
Ethiopia, Haddad added, along with Sudan, is a strategic partner in the Nile water portfolio.
"Egypt needs to reassert these ties and work hard to establish a line of communication with Ethiopia, which will entail strengthening political, economic, social and cultural ties between the two countries and Africa as a whole," Haddad added.
Additionally, Haddad asserted that Egypt needs to push for fresh negotiations on the Nile water issue and that Egyptian diplomacy needs to redouble its effort to reach an agreement that is accepted by all parties and based on a foundation of justice.
Haddad added that the agreement should not necessarily amount to "equals share" of Nile water resources, but rather "adequate provision of water of the Nile Basin according to the needs of each country."
Egyptian negotiators should incorporate modern concepts, rain harvesting and cutting down on the exploitation of other resources, he added.
"Egypt's image of Africa needs to improve. Egypt's opposition to the dam was negatively perceived by Africans who felt that Egypt was standing in the way of their development," Haddad stated. He claimed that this opposition was the more offensive as the dam project spearheaded by former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was a national project behind which all Ethiopians united.
Nevertheless, Egypt strives to be a partner with African nations, and respects other countries' rights in the development of their societies, Haddad said.
Haddad underlined that Ethiopia's moves take into account the results of the tripartite international experts committee on the dam, just as Egypt would not preemptively make a move without studying the effects of a given project on neighbouring countries which would be affected by it.
Ethiopia on Tuesday began diverting the course of the Blue Nile, one of the Nile River’s two major tributaries, as part of its project to build a new dam.
The majority of the Nile water that reaches Egypt and Sudan orginates in the Blue Nile.
The Renaissance Dam has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government, amid sensitivities about any effect on the volume of water that will reach Egypt if the project is completed.
The dam is one of four hydro-electric power projects planned for construction in Ethiopia.
Egypt will need an additional 21 billion cubic metres of water per year by 2050, on top of its current quota of 55 billion metres, to meet the water needs of a projected population of 150 million people, according to Egypt's National Planning Institute.