Egypt weighing possibility of mini-African summit on Renaissance Dam crisis

Egypt weighing possibility of mini-African summit on Renaissance Dam crisis
Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam under construction on the River Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, September 26, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Egypt weighing possibility of mini-African summit on Renaissance Dam crisis

Egypt weighing possibility of mini-African summit on Renaissance Dam crisis
  • 11 days of negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan ended without agreement
  • Egypt likely to call on the UN Security Council to meet to discuss the dam

CAIRO: Egypt is considering whether to call a mini-summit of African nations to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, after 11 days of negotiations between the two countries and Sudan ended without agreement.

An official familiar with the negotiations said that Egypt is likely to call on the UN Security Council to meet to discuss the dam. He added that he expects France or Germany to ask council members to hold a session in the near future.

Egypt, which is downstream of the large dam on the Nile, is concerned that it will greatly reduce its water supply. Sudan has similar concerns. Ethiopia says it needs the dam to generate hydroelectric power.

Political expert Mahmoud Bassiouni said Ethiopia’s announcement that it is starting to fill the dam at the same time Turkey is preparing for battle in the Libyan city of Sirte reveals coordination between the two countries against Egypt.

He said it is in Turkey’s interests that Ethiopia controls the Nile “to cover up (Turkey’s) crime against the Iraqis and cover up the drying up of the Euphrates River (resulting from the construction of) a similar dam at the source of the river in Turkey,” and because it also distracts Egypt from pursuing its interests in Libya.

“There is a public conspiracy against Egypt amid the silence of the international community and the African Union, which requested the completion of the negotiations,” he added. “Egypt will not remain silent and will respond at the appropriate time.”

In the Libyan Civil War, Ankara supports the government in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, while Cairo backs his rival, Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who wants the Egyptian military to help him. Egypt has called for peace negotiations, a plea that was rejected by Al-Sarraj.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi recently said his country has a legitimate right to intervene in in Libya, and described the Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra as “red lines” that must not be crossed.

On Wednesday night, the hashtags #EgyptianMilitary and #RenaissanceDam were trending on Twitter in Egypt, as people reacted to the latest developments relating to the dam and the situation in Libya. Many expressed concern and fear about the escalating conflicts between Egypt and neighboring countries. Others called for Cairo to take a firm stance on the dam, and criticized the negotiations about it as being useless from the start.

“Egypt already has a lot on its plate with the situation in Libya. It is distracting the country from the negotiations and Ethiopia is taking full advantage of that,” said a 26-year-old accountant.

“Ethiopia is declaring war on Egypt this way,” someone else wrote on Twitter.

Many denounced Ethiopia and Turkey as traitors and warned that Egypt will respond to their actions.

There were conflicting reports on Wednesday about the status of the dam. Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s minister of water, irrigation and energy, announced that work had started to fill it, even though no agreement has been reached in the negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. However, Ethiopia’s Water Ministry denied media reports that the reservoir was being filled.

“In the interest of the nation, I call on Egyptians to delete all their misleading interventions about the Security Council and the International Court of Justice regarding any previous or future negotiations with Ethiopia regarding the Renaissance Dam, after its decision today,” said Ayman Salama, an expert on political affairs and professor of international law at Egypt’s Nasser Military Academy.

He said that tensions are running high and added: “The moment is bitter, so do not try to find the good in it. Trust is obligatory and prudence is necessary.”

In a message posted on Facebook, Mohamed Nasr Allam, a former Egyptian minister of irrigation and water resources, wrote: “Is the Ethiopian decision to fill the dam during tensions on our western borders done with the aim of pressuring Egypt to return to the African Union negotiations and accept the Ethiopian terms?”