Ethiopia’s relationship with Egypt and Sudan is not confined to just to issues relating to Nile water rights, Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt said in an Egyptian TV interview Monday.
In an interview with the private TV station Al-Nahar, Ambassador Mahmoud Dreier said that the relationship between the three countries was “bigger than that,” and that the relationships, some of the oldest in Africa, could be a set model for relationships throughout the continent.
The Grand Renaissance Dam (GRD), giant hydroelectric dam project undertaken by Ethiopia, has been the source of contention between Cairo and Addis Ababa. Egypt, which relies almost exclusively on the Nile for farming and drinking water, fears the dam would significantly diminish its share of the river’s water.
The interview with the Ethiopian ambassador came only hours after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn agreed during the sidelines of the African Union summit in Rwanda’s Kijali to begin technical studies on the dam’s hydrological and environmental impact on downstream countries in order to “reach agreement on the rules of filing and operating.”
“The truth is we have interests, Egypt has interests, and Sudan has interests. We are reviewing how to create a harmony in mutual interests,” Dreier said.
The ambassador said the construction of the GRD was in a “very developed” stage, noting that the construction of the $4 billion dam is slated for completion in 2017.
“What was left in construction is very little. It’s nearly done,” he added.
He denounced alleged attempts by the Egyptian media to report untruthful news about the dam, adding that such outlets portrayed the dam as a “devil”.
The ambassador said that this was due to the such outlets’ “ignorance” of Ethiopia and its historical 90-year diplomatic relationship with Egypt.
He added that the current series of discussions being held were not about whether the dam will be built or not, adding that the studies underway — which will take 11 to 12 months to complete — are related to the effects of the dam.
Dreier said that talks between the technical committees of involved countries were being held in a manner that portrays a good relationship between the concerned officials.
The ambassador then stressed that the dam was “Ethiopian, built by Ethiopians, and would be administered by Ethiopians,” when asked by the presenter on whether a “foreign side” was going to be involved in the management of the dam.
Dreier also discussed Ethiopia’s relationship with Israel following Israeli PM Benjamen Netanyahu controversial visit to Addis Ababa earlier this month, saying that the relationship was not a “secretive” one.
Israel launched a $13-million aid package to strengthen economic ties and cooperation with African countries, including Ethiopia, with a pledge to also provide certain African states with training in “domestic security”.
Dreier, however, stressed that Ethiopia doesn’t insinuate Israel with its relationship with Egypt.
According to the Ethiopian envoy, a sixth summit on a “presidential level” between Egypt and Ethiopia would be held in the coming months. He added that the summit will be hosted by Egypt, yet declined to mention when the summit was to take place.
Although Egypt has repeatedly expressed concern over the dam’s possible effect on the country, Ethiopia insists it will not negatively affect Egypt’s share of Nile water.
In December 2015, President El-Sisi addressed the public saying that there is no reason to worry about the dam and that the matter would be resolved.
“I totally understand the concern of Egyptians as water is a matter of life or death,” El-Sisi added.
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