El-Sisi shows ‘extreme concern’ over Nile dam to Ethiopian PM

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi greets Ethiopian Premier Hailemariam Desalegn in Cairo on Thursday. (AP)
Updated 19 January 2018
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El-Sisi shows ‘extreme concern’ over Nile dam to Ethiopian PM

CAIRO: Egypt’s president on Thursday expressed his “extreme concern” to Ethiopia’s visiting prime minister over the lack of progress in talks on the impact of a massive upstream dam that Egypt fears could cut into its vital share of the Nile.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has warned that Egypt’s share of the Nile, which provides nearly all its freshwater, is a red line. But he has also sought to reassure Ethiopia and Sudan that Egypt has no intention of going to war.
El-Sisi was grim-faced during most of a news conference he jointly addressed with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn after the two held talks in Cairo.
El-Sisi said he appreciated Ethiopia’s repeated assurances that the dam, which is about 60 percent complete, would not have a negative impact on Egypt, but he said studies must still be completed and that all sides should abide by their findings.
Egypt is a mostly desert country that depends on the Nile for almost all of its water needs. Its 95 million people grow by at least a million every year, further straining its water resources and posing a perpetual challenge to its economic development.
“I expressed our extreme concern over the continuation of the state of stagnation besetting the tripartite technical track,” which is aimed at examining the impact of the dam on Egypt and Sudan, El-Sisi said.
He said cooperation among the Nile basin countries must not be a “zero-sum game.”
Relations have deteriorated between Egypt and Sudan, with Cairo accusing Khartoum of siding with Ethiopia in the dispute over the dam and reviving a long-standing border dispute.
Of special concern to Egypt is the speed at which a planned reservoir is filled behind the dam and the method of its annual replenishment. Egypt fears that a quick fill would drastically reduce the Nile’s flow, with potentially severe effects on its agriculture and other sectors.
Ethiopia says the $5 billion dam is essential, noting that the vast majority of its population lacks electricity. The dam will generate over 6,400 megawatts, a massive boost to the country’s current production of 4,000 Megawatts.
Egypt recently proposed that World Bank experts be brought in as neutral arbitrators. El-Sisi said Sudan and Ethiopia are still studying the proposal, but that Desalegn wanted a different team of experts.


Latest Gaza flare-up: What does it mean for the blockaded strip?

This cease-fire, like others before it, is fragile and could easily be derailed. (AFP)
Updated 35 min 25 sec ago
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Latest Gaza flare-up: What does it mean for the blockaded strip?

  • “Unfortunately aggression against the Palestinian people will continue.”
  • Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in Gaza since 2008

AFP JERUSALEM: A truce in Gaza has left Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu battling to keep his government afloat after Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman walked out in protest.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, welcomed Lieberman’s resignation on Wednesday as a “victory” — but what will it mean for Gaza?

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in Gaza since 2008, interspersed with simmering hostilities and periodic spikes in violence.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel. The Jewish state, like the US and the EU, defines Hamas as a “terrorist” organization. For over a decade Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on the coastal strip.

An apparently botched Israeli army raid into the Gaza Strip triggered the worst escalation in violence since 2014 and brought the two sides to the brink of war.

On Tuesday, Hamas and Israel accepted an Egyptian-mediated cease-fire. Denouncing it as “capitulation,” Lieberman resigned from his post the next day, leaving the government with a majority of just one seat in Parliament.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad declared the cease-fire with military powerhouse Israel “a political victory.”

It came after Israel in October allowed Qatar to provide Gaza with fuel to help ease its chronic electricity crisis, under a UN-brokered deal.

In parallel, Egypt and the UN have been seeking to broker a long-term Gaza-Israel truce in exchange for Israel easing its embargo.

The events of the past week gave a boost to Hamas and its allies, said Gaza political analyst Mukhaimer Abu Saada. “But if there is a war that could change,” he said.

After the pounding Gaza took in 2014, most residents want above all to avoid a rerun. Indirect contacts between Israel and Hamas have eroded the status of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

A peace initiative by US President Donald Trump is expected to emerge in the next few months. The PA fears that it will drive the wedge even deeper between Gaza the West Bank, two territories long envisaged as part of a unified Palestinian state.

Jamal Al-Fadi, a professor of political science in Gaza, says such a divide suits Israel. “We can not have results against Israel except by unity,” he said.

This cease-fire, like others before it, is fragile and could easily be derailed.

With the Israeli political tensions unleashed by Lieberman’s departure, there will be fresh domestic pressure on Netanyahu to hit Hamas harder.

“The coming days will be difficult” for Gaza, Al-Fadi said.

“It was a right-wing government and the (next) elections will bring another right-wing government,” he said.

“Unfortunately aggression against the Palestinian people will continue.”