Vital Yemen port to stay open for a month

The Red Sea port of Hodeidah in Yemen will remain open for the delivery of humanitarian aid. (File/Reuters)
Updated 21 December 2017

Vital Yemen port to stay open for a month

JEDDAH: The Saudi-led Arab Coalition in Yemen will keep the Houthi-controlled Hodeidah port open for a month despite a missile attack on Riyadh that was intercepted on Tuesday.
The coalition said on Wednesday it was “keen to maintain humanitarian aid to the brotherly Yemeni people.” Two days after a missile fired at Riyadh was intercepted on Nov. 4, Saudi Arabia and its allies closed air, land and sea access to Yemen to prevent the flow of arms from Iran to the Houthis.
The Iran-backed militia must surrender their weapons before the start of any peace talks, Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said on Tuesday night. Other conditions are the restoration of his government to power and the handover of state institutions.
“We do not have a partner with whom we can reach peace,” Hadi said at a meeting with foreign ambassadors at his residence in Riyadh.
Dialogue had become impossible since the Houthis assassinated Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had sought a cease-fire deal with Saudi Arabia, Hadi said. “They have proved that they do not tend toward peace... and any attempt at peace before their weapons are seized is a waste of time.”
Tuesday’s Houthi attack on Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh sparked global outrage. Iran has also been criticized for its support of the militia to foment unrest in Yemen. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, urged the Security Council on Tuesday to punish Iran for its “dangerous violations” of UN resolutions and “destabilizing behavior.”
Tuesday’s missile attack “bears all the hallmarks of previous attacks using Iranian-provided weapons,” Haley said.
“This is not the first time the Houthis have fired missiles at civilians in a G-20 country. And unless we act, it won’t be the last. It is only a matter of time before one of these missiles hits the target. If we don’t do something, we will miss the opportunity to prevent further violence from Iran.”
Haley said a new report from the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres — the fourth such report on the progress of Iran’s compliance with Resolution 2231 — was “the most damning yet” and urged the council to consider “a few options we can use to put pressure on Iran to adjust their behavior.”
The resolution endorses the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, but also imposes restrictions on Tehran’s use and export of ballistic missiles. The report was compiled before the latest missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, but Haley said it still contained evidence of Iranian involvement in illegal activities.
“The report describes a dual English-Farsi keyboard that was part of the guidance system of an unmanned surface vehicle used against the Saudi coalition in Yemen. That was just one of several pieces of evidence that points to the Iranian manufacture of the detonation and guidance systems of the weapon,” she said. “There is plenty more.”
She also referred to the recovery of a number of weapons “from attacks and planned attacks on a G-20 country” which were “made by Iranian weapons industries tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”
“We must speak with one voice in dealing with Iranian threats to peace,” Haley said. “While we do so, we must also make it clear that the Iranian people are not the problem. The Iranian people are victims of their own government.”
Haley also recognized that many UN member states had “put a lot of effort into the nuclear agreement with Iran.” However, she said: “That should not allow us to look the other way at the very serious non-nuclear items like sales of arms, ballistic missile testing, and support for terrorism.
“The international community must demonstrate that we are committed to ensuring accountability for the full spectrum of Iran’s malign behavior.”


Egypt’s options dwindle as Nile talks break down

Updated 49 min 8 sec ago

Egypt’s options dwindle as Nile talks break down

  • Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
  • El-Sisi said he would “never” allow Ethiopia to impose a “de facto situation” by filling the dam without an agreement

CAIRO: The latest breakdown in talks with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam has left Egypt with dwindling options as it seeks to protect the main source of freshwater for its large and growing population.

Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is 60 percent complete and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people.

But Egypt, with a population of around the same size, fears that the process of filling the reservoir behind the dam could slice into its share of the river, with catastrophic consequences. Pro-government media have cast it as a national security threat that could warrant military action.

Speaking at the UN last month, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said he would “never” allow Ethiopia to impose a “de facto situation” by filling the dam without an agreement.

“While we acknowledge Ethiopia’s right to development, the water of the Nile is a question of life, a matter of existence to Egypt,” he said.

Egypt has been holding talks for years with Ethiopia and Sudan, upstream countries that have long complained about Cairo’s overwhelming share of the river, which is enshrined in treaties dating back to the British colonial era. Those talks came to an acrimonious halt earlier this month, the third time they have broken down since 2014.

“We are fed up with Ethiopian procrastination. We will not spend our lifetime in useless talks,” an Egyptian official told The Associated Press. “All options are on the table, but we prefer dialogue and political means.”

Egypt has reached out to the United States, Russia, China and Europe, apparently hoping to reach a better deal through international mediation. The White House said earlier this month it supports talks to reach a sustainable agreement while “respecting each other’s Nile water equities.”

Mohamed el-Molla, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official, said Cairo would take the dispute to the UN Security Council if the Ethiopians refuse international mediation.

That has angered Ethiopia, which wants to resolve the dispute through the tripartite talks.

An Ethiopian official said the packages offered by Cairo so far “were deliberately prepared to be unacceptable for Ethiopia.”

“Now they are saying Ethiopia has rejected the offer, and calling for a third-party intervention,” the official added. Both the Ethiopian and the Egyptian official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks with the media.

The main dispute is centered on the filling of the dam’s 74-billion-cubic-meter reservoir. Ethiopia wants to fill it as soon as possible so it can generate over 6,400 Megawatts, a massive boost to the current production of 4,000 Megawatts. Ethiopia said earlier this year that the dam would start generating power by the end of 2020 and would operate at full capacity by 2022.

That has the potential to sharply reduce the flow of the Blue Nile, the main tributary to the river, which is fed by annual monsoon rains in the Ethiopian highlands. If the filling takes place during one of the region’s periodic droughts, its downstream impact could be even more severe.

Egypt has proposed no less than seven years for filling the reservoir, and for Ethiopia to adjust the pace according to rainfall, said an Egyptian Irrigation Ministry official who is a member of its negotiation team. The official also was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Nile supplies more than 90 percent of Egypt’s freshwater. Egyptians already have one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, at around 570 cubic meters per year, compared to a global average of 1,000. Ethiopians however have an average of 125 cubic meters per year.

Egypt wants to guarantee a minimum annual release of 40 billion cubic meters of water from the Blue Nile. The irrigation official said anything less could affect Egypt’s own massive Aswan High Dam, with dire economic consequences.

“It could put millions of farmers out of work. We might lose more than one million jobs and $1.8 billion annually, as well as $300 million worth of electricity,” he said.

The official said Ethiopia has agreed to guarantee just 31 billion cubic meters.

El-Sisi is set to meet with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Wednesday in the Russian city of Sochi, on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit. They may be able to revive talks, but the stakes get higher as the dam nears completion.

The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, warned earlier this year that the “risk of future clashes could be severe if the parties do not also reach agreement on a longer-term basin-wide river management framework.”

In recent weeks there have been calls by some commentators in Egypt’s pro-government media to resort to force.
Abdallah el-Senawy, a prominent columnist for the daily newspaper el-Shorouk, said the only alternatives were internationalizing the dispute or taking military action.

“Egypt is not a small county,” he wrote in a Sunday column. “If all diplomatic and legal options fail, a military intervention might be obligatory.”
Anwar el-Hawary, the former editor of the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, compared the dispute to the 1973 war with Israel, in which Egypt launched a surprise attack into the Sinai Peninsula.

“If we fought to liberate Sinai, it is logical to fight to liberate the water,” he wrote on Facebook. “The danger is the same in the two cases. War is the last response.”