Ethiopian PM asks S.Africa to mediate Nile dam dispute

FILE - In this June 28, 2013 file photo, the Blue Nile river flows near the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near Assosa, Ethopia. Two days of negotiations between top officials from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan were hoped to reach agreements on technical issues related to the $4.6 billion dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, but the talks concluded Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 without an agreement. (AP Photo/Elias Asmare, File)
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Updated 12 January 2020

Ethiopian PM asks S.Africa to mediate Nile dam dispute

  • Abiy called on South Africa’s president to intervene in the negotiations
  • Ethiopia’s ties to Egypt have soured since the east African country launched the dam construction

PRETORIA: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday asked South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in a long-running dispute with Egypt over a massive dam being built on the Blue Nile River.
Ethiopia’s ties to Egypt have soured since the east African country launched the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam in 2011.
Set to become the largest hydropower plant in Africa, the project has fueled tensions because Egypt depends on the river for 90 percent of its water supply.
Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan — where the Blue Nile converges with the White Nile before flowing north — started discussions in November that are meant to yield an agreement next week.
But major sticking points remained in the latest round of talks on Thursday and the parties have yet to clinch a deal.
Abiy, who visited South Africa this weekend, called on Ramaphosa to intervene in the negotiations as the next chairperson of the African Union (AU), which he will take over from Egypt this month.
“As he (Ramaphosa) is a good friend for both Ethiopia and Egypt and also as incoming AU chair, he can make a discussion between both parties to solve the issue peacefully,” Abiy told reporters at a press conference in South Africa’s political capital Pretoria.
Ramaphosa said South Africa was open to playing a role in facilitating “whatever agreement can be crafted.”
“What is pleasing, as far as I’m concerned, is that both countries are willing to discuss this matter and find solutions,” he said.
The president said he had already brought up the issue with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who was “willing to have discussions with Ethiopia.”
Abiy received the Nobel Peace Prize last month for his efforts to resolve a long-running conflict between Ethiopia and its neighboring foe Eritrea.
Just three months after Abiy took office in 2018, he ended a 20-year-old stalemate between the countries over a 1998-2000 border conflict.
US President Donald Trump made a controversial statement earlier this week in which he complained about Abiy receiving the prestigious award.
“To be honest, I don’t have any clue about... how the Nobel committee selects an individual for the prize,” said Abiy, struggling to contain a smile at the mention.
“If President Trump complained it must go to Oslo, not to Ethiopia.”


Ukraine to press for plane crash black boxes as Iran minister visits

Updated 20 January 2020

Ukraine to press for plane crash black boxes as Iran minister visits

  • Ukraine’s foreign minister said returning the black boxes would show that Iran wanted an unbiased investigation of the crash
  • The plane disaster has heightened international pressure on Iran

KIEV: Ukraine will press Iran to hand over the black boxes from the crash of a Ukrainian passenger plane at a meeting with a visiting Iranian delegation on Monday, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told reporters.
Ukraine would convey the message to visiting Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami, that returning the black boxes would show that Iran wanted an unbiased investigation of the crash, Prystaiko said.
“His main task is to apologize and acknowledge what happened. We hope that we can go a little further than just political discussions and discuss practical problems. Among them in particular is the return of the black boxes,” Prystaiko said.
Iran had said on Sunday it was trying to analyze the black boxes from the airliner its military shot down this month, denying an earlier report it would hand them to Ukraine. All 176 aboard the flight died.
“At first they stated that they were handing them over, then the same person stated that they were not handing them over. This created some misunderstanding in Ukraine and we were starting to be asked: are they being handed over or not?“
Many of those killed had were Iranians with dual citizenship, but Iran does not recognize dual nationality and on Monday said it would treat the victims as Iranian nationals.
Canada, which had 57 citizens on the flight, said there were still no firm plans for downloading the recorders. Ottawa and other capitals have called for the black boxes to be sent abroad.
The Jan. 8 plane disaster has heightened international pressure on Iran as it grapples with a long-running dispute with the United States over its nuclear program and its influence in the region that briefly erupted into open conflict this month.
The Iranian military has said it downed Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 in error in the aftermath of tit-for-tat strikes by the United States and Iran. But authorities delayed admitting this, prompting days of protests on Iran’s streets.
Ukraine held a ceremony at Kiev’s Boryspil airport on Sunday as the bodies of 11 citizens, including nine crew, were returned to Ukraine.