Egypt seeks Saudi help on Ethiopia water dispute By al-monitor

March 6th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

CAIRO — Egypt is considering preparing a formal request for Gulf mediation under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, in order to back Cairo’s stance vis-à-vis the ongoing conflict with Ethiopia about the Renaissance Dam. The mediation request comes as part of a basket of escalatory measures adopted by Egypt in January, following the breakdown of technical negotiations among the Egyptian, Sudanese and Ethiopian water resources ministers.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, an Egyptian government official said, “A detailed report is currently being prepared to examine and explain Egyptian concerns relating to the building of the dam, in the absence of a clear agreement with Ethiopia about it. The final draft of the report, which explains the concerns over the repercussions the construction of the dam will have on Egypt and Sudan, will be sent to the International Panel of Experts.”

The official, who has close ties to Egyptian decision-making circles, added, “Egypt will ask Ethiopia, through the mediation, to sign a binding agreement with Egypt stating the dam’s operational specifications, its stored water capacity, and the amount of water that will be regularly released in a manner that does not negatively affect Egypt’s share of that water.”

This convergence of views between Egypt and the Gulf countries — except for Qatar — began after the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi by the army on July 3, 2013. While the Gulf leaders expressed their satisfaction toward the change in the political scene of Egypt after the fall of the Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates rushed to offer financial aid packages to the Egyptian government, amounting to $10.7 billion in the span of only six months.

“Resorting to Gulf mediation will help Egypt gain more time. As Ethiopia is rushing to build the dam, we are running out of time and are unable to re-launch negotiations, which puts us in a critical situation,” the official added.

According to the same official, “Egypt is preparing this dossier after receiving verbal assurances from Saudi and Emirati officials that they would back Egypt in all issues affecting its national security. This problem has been discussed in the many meetings that took place between Egyptian and Gulf officials since last June 30.”

“The Gulf mediation is a good and useful step, but it is conditional on the acceptance of both countries,” Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the head of the Arab Water Council, told Al-Monitor.

Abu Zeid said the potency of such mediation efforts lies in the fact that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have strong economic ties with and large investments in the Ethiopian market.

The head of the Arab Water Council, whose membership includes Saudi officials, added that it was possible for the council to play an important role in helping alleviate the ongoing tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia. But the Egyptian government has yet to ask it to intervene, and Egypt’s concern with the water issue still requires direct guidance from the president, as well as an intensification of efforts to solve the crisis, Abu Zeid said.

Saudi Arabia contributes to economic development projects in Ethiopia through investments made by Saudi businessmen in infrastructure projects. In addition, it offers Addis Ababa further support through the Kuwaiti Development Fund, OPEC and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, with the Ethiopian parliament endorsing projects financed by Saudi Arabia in energy and agriculture. Furthermore, the kingdom plays host to thousands of Ethiopian workers who are employed in a variety of jobs, particularly as domestic labor, despite that this issue was the cause of tensions after Saudi Arabia expelled a large number of illegal workers.

In January 2011, the Director of the Ethiopian Investment Authority, Abi Walad Meskel, estimated Saudi investments to be close to $3 billion dollars, making Saudi Arabia the largest investor in Ethiopia, followed by India, China and Turkey.

Al-Monitor spoke with an Egyptian diplomat assigned to the Ethiopian relations dossier. “Any change in the amount or terms of monies given to the Addis Ababa government will greatly contribute in compelling Ethiopia into reassessing its stance towards Egypt, as well as committing to a serious and constructive dialogue in order to resolve the continuing crisis that exists between the two countries concerning the Renaissance Dam,” he said.

The diplomatic source, who requested anonymity, asserted, “Arab financial pressure was the best of options in the escalatory scenario currently adopted by Egypt, following strong indications that the Egyptian Minister of Water Resources’ visit to Italy would be successful, and the uncertain prospects vis-à-vis resorting to the international community, now that Egypt has a new government in place.”

African affairs specialist at the Al-Ahram Center for Political Studies, Hani Raslan, cautioned, in an interview with Al-Monitor, about “the current state of affairs, which was no longer confined to mere tensions and constituted a direct and imminent threat to Egypt, as a result of it being deprived of its water rights. Ethiopia refuses to recognize previous international norms and conventions, as well as Egypt’s historical right, and considers the waters of the Nile to be its property.” Raslan further warned against any attempts to impose a fait accompli and move toward adopting a policy where water would be sold after the building of dams.

Raslan opined that Saudi mediation did not stop at direct negotiations with Addis Ababa, but also entailed putting pressure through other diplomatic channels that exist between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

He also asserted, “The success of Saudi intervention would primarily be to the benefit of Egypt, in accordance with the political pledges and interests that Saudi Arabia has undertaken vis-à-vis Egypt lately.”

The Arab world suffers from an inability to secure daily water needs, with a November 2013 UN report estimating that Arab countries needed to allocate at least $200 billion for water resource management during the next 10 years, just to address this crisis. The report also warned about the nonexistence of comprehensive international agreements governing transboundary waters, despite that one-third of the surface water upon which the Arab world relies originating outside its borders, with the same applying to ground water in the Arabian Peninsula.

News reports have pointed toward a shift in the food security policies of Gulf countries from Africa to Europe and America. Gulf countries are re-evaluating their projects aimed at securing their food security through some African nations, such as Ethiopia, following increased animosity toward Gulf investors among locals and the spread of public reservations about Arab investments on their lands. This is a result of the massive investments that Gulf countries made to purchase tens of thousands of hectares of cheap farmland in African countries, which they used to satisfy nearly 90% of their food needs.

The Renaissance Dam crisis continues to dominate the rhetoric of Egyptian officials, as the Ethiopian side asserts its intention to proceed with the project. Despite Cairo’s efforts, there’s no clear indications that their efforts thus far have made any inroads.

  1. Jawar
    | #1

    The camel walks as the dogs keep on barking.

  2. balageru
    | #2

    Saudi already have done her evil part by deporting hundred thousands of Ethiopians inhumanly,and killing three Ethiopians. That did not work.

  3. teka
    | #3

    Saudi killed Ethiopians and deported in hundreds to support Egypt by protesting against Ethiopia. By deporting and killing Ethiopians Saudi Arabia already showed its true color. I don’t believe Saudi is going to be a neutral mediator when it comes to Ethiopia and Egypt. They are coming to protect Egypt’s interest. Egyptians are selecting Arab countries that invested heavily in Ethiopia. This selection has two benefits. one is the countries have a lot of leverage to make Ethiopia to listen to what Egypt wants to say. Second, if Ethiopia ignores this countries, the countries leaders become upset, consequential withdrew their investment from Ethiopia; Egypt’s wish. All things considered, however, it is too late to reverse the course of the dam constructions using theses kind of tactics. Egypt’s leader are too late to stop the dam from going through. I think Egypt is better of to sit and talk to the riparian countries now. As Egypt becomes more bully and inconsiderate, the riparian countries become more unforgiving in the future negotiations.

  4. Worku tesfaye
    | #4

    Saudi is benefited from Ethiopia.
    More bilateral economic relationship advance Saudi.
    It is up to zem.
    Ze huge farm,organic meat,life camel and so on.
    Egypt or Ethiopia

  5. #5
    | #5

    Egyptians seem to sensationalize the dam issue to divert domestic tensions. The dam has many benefits to both Egypt an Sudan and in any way Egyptian interest is not affected. Ethiopia and Egypt do not really need mediation if not just honest negotiations. But If Egypt insist in mediation by a third party the best mediators would be African countries specially the Nile Basin countries. If Egypt do not accept Africans the ideal choice should be European, American or Asian countries who actually have rivers and preferably countries with transboundary rivers. For example in the Middle East Turkey and Israel have reputable experience in dealing with transboundary river issues. Ethiopia is just using the water for producing electric power. Since Egypt still get the water after it generates electric power there is nothing to mediate between Egypt and Ethiopia and the electric power can be used by Egyptians and the Sudanese. The hipped stance of the present rulers of Egypt is incomprehensible. Egyptian officials think that they can manipulate almost every country with false information and disinformation about the dam and pressure Ethiopia to finally stop building the dam. They might be doing this for just domestic conception but they are going too far which could start to affect the credibility of Egypt as a nation. The Golf states have there own interests in Africa. Ethiopian is friendly with many of these nations and have become investment destination in agriculture and the service industry. These countries understand that there is nothing reasonable to oppose the construction of the dam and will not easily manipulate Ethiopia. Egyptians are fooling themselves If they think that some of Golf states are going to put their hand on fire just with a campaign of misinformation disinformation. The Saudis will never withdraw or slow down their investments in Ethiopia for the benefit of Egyptian generals, specially when they have no proof of the dam doing a single damage to Egypt and Sudan supporting it. Reading the tinplate committee report is enough proof.

    | #6

    Mittelalterliches archaisch Saudi ሰለሞናዊ ፍርድን ስለማታውቅ እንኳንስ ለአስታራቂነት ይቅርና ለደላላነትም አትበቃም:: ይልቁንስ ግብፅ በቀጥታ ኢትዮጵያን አለም አቀፋዊው የሚፈቅደውን እንድትለቅላት ብትለማመጥ ይሻላታል:: ሳውዲ ግን ከሁሉ በፊት እንግዳን ማክበርና የሴቶችን መብት ማክበርን መለማመድ ያስፈልጋታል….!

  7. aha!
    | #7

    The third from the last paragraph expresses the concerns for water security in the Arab countries, including Egypt. As I already expressed in the past the gravitational flow of water leans towards countries at the lower basins than those at the upper basins for drinking and irrigation water needs than for generation of electricity, because of the topography. Therefore, the contentions between Egypt and Ethiopia is the size of the dam that allows for the continuation of the gravitational flow of water, and the holding back of water during the construction of the dam. On the Ethiopian side, a revitalization program of the northern and central highlands water catchment basins, to retain water, to conserve soil and raise productivity and change to a democratic rule, a rule by the people of the people and for the people as the mode of governance from the current ethnic rule, ethnic dictatorship of either minority or majority rule need to be undertaken within the water holding phase of the dam and beyond to avoid siltation.

    If we use water security as central focus of contention, then what contributes to water security to the lower Nile basins is the size of the dam, not the complete ban on building a dam by any of the upper Nile River basins. From that context/pretext Egypt should have been refrained from adhering to colonial era treaty, and latter on to either bombing the dam by terrorists and/or air bombing of the dam, or take to the united nations and to use Saudi Arabia, a country that is subjected to water security based on trans boundary rivers as an arbitrator, mired with human rights violations with the Ethiopian immigrant workers and economically tied to Ethiopia in its agro-businesses to produce food to its population at the expense of displacement of the local population. This scenario reverses the position of Ethiopia as a bread basket for the Middle Eastern countries, supplying food products, which has been facilitated in the past by Australia, when Ethiopia would have raised its capability of producing high quality of mutton and cereals to meet the demands of the middle east as well as create jobs for its citizens, than to engage in human trafficking for slave labor in Saudi-Arabia, nor standing up with workers to upgrade their visa and/or accommodate them when they come home. With these as a pretext the question of Saudi-Arabia as an arbiter is disqualified as a neutral arbiter and the TPLF/eprdf regime as a contender is also out before it puts its house in order with respect to its mode of governance as well as humanitarian, economic, political and environmental crises perpetrated on the silent majority Ethiopians denying them their individual rights in preference to ethnic and secessionist rights, built in its constitution.

  8. Oda Tulu
    | #8

    The huge size of the dam should be reduced because the planned size by TPLF warlords would not be economical. More cost benefit analysis is required. There is no need to go to war with Egypt and sacrifice the lives of young people and squander resources on both sides, by rejecting its proposal for a reduced size of the dam

  9. Alemash
    | #9

    Arabs wanted to make Ethiopian women confirm to their drss codes fro centuries. Ms. Aster Zaoude (Gender Practioner), Ms. Birtukan Gebregzi (Deputy President, Enat Bank), Ms. Chachi Tadesse (Musician & Children’s Activist), Ms. Desta Hagos (Pioneer Artist/Painter), Ms. Ingidaye Eshete (Chair, Ethiopian Women Entrepreneurs Association), Ms. Selamawit Adugna (Youth Representative), Ms. Zenaye Tadesse (Managing Director, Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association) and Moderator Ms Tsedale Lemma (Editor-in-Chief at Addis Standard) made it clear to the press that Ethiopian women do not want the Arab dress code imposed on them without their consent. They also discussed at Eshetu Chole Hall, Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE Campus), Addis Ababa University on Friday March 7th 2014: International Women’s Day ‘‘Stand-Alone Goal on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Post 2015 Agenda”
    The African Union Commission on Friday 07 March 2014 commemorated international women’s day at the AU head quarters in Addis Ababa under the theme “Stand-Alone Goal on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Post 2015 Agenda”. The International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated on 8th March around the world is a celebration dedicated to salute all women for their achievements.

    The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma recalled that women have been fighting for equality for over a century. African women, she observed have been an integral part of this global movement since the days of anti slavery, anti colonialism and liberation movements, until today’s struggle for Africa’s development, peace, integration and prosperity.

    In the statement delivered the Director for Women, Gender and Development Mrs Litha Musyimi Ogana, Dr Dlamini Zuma urged transformation of the continent in order to meet its development objectives.
    “As we celebrate the 103rd International Women’s Day this year, the world and Africa are moving towards finalising the post-2015 development agenda. That is why we have made transformation as the foundation of the Common African Position on the post-2015 development agenda. Part of this transformation agenda is the mainstreaming of gender and women’s empowerment throughout all pillars and goals of the development agenda, with specific goals on gender equality and women’s empowerment”, the Chairperson noted.

    The president of the AU Staff Association Mr Salla Sidig Hammad also addressed the ceremony. He said the association “joins African women in calling on our member states to expedite the ratification and implementation of the Protocol to the Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which guarantees comprehensive rights to women including the right to take part in the political process, to social and political equality with men, to control of their reproductive health, an end to female genital mutilation and meaningful participation in peace and security matters”. Mr Sallah also applauded the fact that Africa as a continent has 3 head of states and that the Chairperson of the African Union Commission is a woman, “something we haven’t seen in the other parts of the world and this is a lesson to be learnt from Africa”, he added.

    The celebrations were also addressed by the Head of the UN Women in Ethiopia, Mrs. Lettie Chiwara.

    The objective of the celebration of International Women’s Day is to review past progress of women’s development and more importantly, to look ahead at the opportunities of women in Africa and also to acknowledge the steps taken by the AU to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment .

  10. Ll
    | #10

    Tulu, I don’t agree with what you said, reducing the size of the dam. I don’t think you can back your claim with research. Smaller size means smaller electric power generation and that probably consumed domestically. But with large dam it is possible to export after domestic consumption. And also if war breaks Egypt will be the biggest loser in long term.

  11. Development without freedom
    | #11

    President Obama should stop arming Egypt, with F16. He will be responsible if they use these weapons against anyone. Egypt does not need these weapons or strong army. Except Israel and Ethiopia who is their possible enemy in their surroundings? To their north is Europe, to south is Sudan and west is Libya.

  12. Oda Tulu
    | #12

    LI #10: Where are you going to sell the extra power. This is why I said extensive cost benefit analysis is required to be carried out by internationally accredited experts in relevant fields such as in economics, finance, environment, engineering.

  13. Money talks!
    | #13

    Saudis already own millions of acres of Ethiopia’s land, even after some of Saudi citizens raped, tortured, killed and deported hundreds of thousands hard working poor Ethiopians, Woyanes keep on serving Saudis with hand and foot. I am afraid, as long as Saudis shower Woyanes with some of their millions of billions of dollars, Woyanes will do whatever Saudis want and Saudis will be owning the majority of Ethiopia’s land in the near future.

  14. Somali Man
    | #14

    Saudi Arabia is one of the absolute monarchies that left in this world. These days, they are having hard time to sustain this system that does not have any shape and form to governing a country. As Muslim person who lived in Egypt and Arab world , I had a bad experienced with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They used to deport young Somalis who staged demonstration against Ziad Barre in the 1980′s and the junta executed them as they arrived in their country. These barbaric regimes think how to rule at any expensive.
    Additionally, they have a lot in common with TPLF regime that has been sending young Ethiopian at the age of twelve to Saudi Arabia. To build the dam is very good if it is reducing the poverty of Ethiopian who are mistreated in those countries.
    However, TPLF, Saudi and Egypt have a lot in common; killing people, suppressing democracy and stifling freedom are their slogans.
    Moreover, Saudi Arabia, America , and Israel are the ones who overthrew the regime in Egypt so that they can put a puppet to rule forever. A good friend of mine who is from Egypt told me that our regime and Saudi are the worst one who are trying to extrapolate their injustice to other countries; I told him TPLF minority is doing the same thing in Ethiopia so that one ethnic group will say in the power forever and beating the drum of nationalism as if they care about Ethiopian.

  15. Belachew
    | #15

    Saudia Arabia can not be trusted to be mediator or rational, since the Islamist extremist elements associated with Egypt and Saudia Arabia. These two countries hate “Christian Majority Ethiopia”, by assisting anti Ethiopian and anti Ethiopian unity organizations in the past several decades by providing strategy and financial supports to weaken and destroy Ethiopia.

  16. yohannse Eshete
    | #16

    The previous generation of Ethiopia more patriotic than today and we have full right to use our resources.

  17. Zurga
    | #17

    @Somali Man
    Well done. Thank u so much.
    You have done a very good job.
    These Arabs are useless beasts.
    Saud Arabia was created by the Brish government.
    So also Egypt. They are puppet regimes like Woyane Tigre.
    currently Ethiopia has no government.
    First Ethiopians must eradicate TPLF.
    Arabs can do nothing. They can only bark like wild dogs.

    Arabs and the fascist Zionist mishmash settlers in Palestine can go hell. As they are the enemy of the black man .
    In fact,the world will be a better place without these camel folowers who are very backward nomads
    A camel is better than an Arab from the so called Arabian peninsula and the Middle East.

    the great the master of Arabs

  18. Lemlem
    | #18

    Why in the first place you need a mediator? All of you Ethiopians who write do not know your right at all. All what you write here is crap and stupid. By saying you will not use the river, you are aknowledge Egypt owns the river and all you need to do now is you have to sign a paper you will not touch it? Shame me and death to you, you scum bags of Ethiopians. Egypt has no any right on the river. But you scum bags are giving it a right that does not have at all. Death and sickness, illness to all of you crabs who write crabs here.

  19. Destachew
    | #19

    Ethiopia has unlimited 100% rights to use its own water within its territory, there is nothing you can discount from this facts.
    Ethiopia is sovereign country, thus should not ask no permission from no country or organization to use its resources regardless.

  20. Back at you!
    | #20

    Your beautiful name doesn’t match your personality, at all! May all the awful curse you wished on peace-loving Ethiopians, come your way and the likes of you. If a person is known to poison and kill people most of his/her life, would you trust that person and drink a cup of water that person handed you? The answer is a fat NO!
    Ethiopians have seen enough shocking crimes committed on their motherland and their fellow Ethiopians by TPLF/Woyanes for the last three decades — Ethiopians DO NOT TRUST TPLF TO DO SOMETHING GOOD TO HELP THE COUNTRY AND THE PEOPLE.

  21. Suliman
    | #21

    Egypt and Saudi these two are the brother hood of medieval savages. But what does this commotion means to we Ethiopians? Are we to fear the brother hood of these savages? I don’t believe so. They can talk the talk, and their discourse won’t strike a fear on the brave Ethiopians. These two are proven hypocrites who has done nothing to their brothers across Sinai. Arabs stop just your bravado and see what is to be done in Ethiopia.

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