We are not against the Ethiopian people, but we advocate our interests: Egypt's PM

Ahram Online, Saturday 26 Apr 2014

Egypt's prime minister underlines his country's commitment to friendly solutions to the dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam

Egyptian prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab during a meeting with the Egyptian delegation in Chad's N'Djamena, 25 April 2014 (Photo courtesy of Egypt's cabinet Facebook page)

Egyptian Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab spoke Friday on the importance of establishing "distinguished relations" with Ethiopia in spite of the ongoing dispute over the Grand Renaissance Dam (GRD) project.

"Egyptian-Ethiopian relations are historical," said Mahlab during a meeting with Egyptians in Chad's N'Djamena.

Ethiopia's plan to build the dam has caused dispute between the two African countries. The project has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government since May of last year, when images of the dam's construction stirred public anxiety about possible effects on Egypt's share of Nile waters, the country's main source of potable water.

The planned dam is a $4.2 billion hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, one of the main tributaries of the Nile.

"We're not against the Ethiopian people but we advocate our interests," Mahlab said.

"We will protect our rights to the Nile water with the support of the world and African countries, and with our efforts," said Mahlab who underlined Egypt's commitment to friendly solutions to the ongoing crisis.

Mahlab, who is also visiting Tanzania this weekend, added that his visit to Chad signals the keenness of Egypt to make a "strong return to Africa."

He also said that he supported operating an airline between Egypt and Ethiopia.

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan formed a tripartite technical committee to study the possible effects of Grand Renaissance Dam and to try to generate consensus. Ethiopia maintains that Egypt's water share will not be negatively affected by the successful completion of the project.

Despite talks between Ethiopia and Egypt breaking down in recent months, officials from both countries insist they will continue to meet in order to solve the dispute over the dam.

Earlier this month, the foreign ministers of both Egypt and Ethiopia held talks in Brussels on the dam.

Last Thursday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn invited Egypt for another round of tripartite talks with Sudan in order to implement recommendations given by an international committee over the construction of the GRD.

"We seek to persuade the Egyptian authorities to avoid unnecessary complaints against the dam and to resume the tripartite talks with Ethiopia and Sudan," Desalegn said in the Ethiopian parliament.

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