By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
December 8, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – Egypt has accussed Ethiopia of delaying tripartite negotiations on a controversial dam project the latter is building along the Nile River.
Cairo’s accusation comes after a planned meeting to discuss Ethiopia’s dam project known as the Grand Renaissance Dam was postponed till next week.
The foreign and irrigation ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan were to hold a meeting in Khartoum from 6-7 Dcember, but was postponed till 11 and 12 December.
In an interview with Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, the Egyptian irrigation minister’s adviser, Meghawry Shehata, accused Ethiopia of postponing the latest meeting.
Ethiopia, however, said the meeting’s postponement was because the Ethiopian foreign affairs minister, Tedros Adhanom, would be in Kenya to launch an integrated border peace program aimed to end border conflicts along the Ethiopia-Kenya common border.
The Egyptian official claimed Ethiopia was deliberately stalling negotiations in order to buy time and reach a construction stage that makes it difficult to demolish the new dam.
“We have been negotiating for six months, whereas we should have finished in just one month”, Shehata said.
Egypt fears the construction of what would be Africa’s largest dam would eventually diminish its water share. The North African nation sees the dam project as a threat to its water security and has previously even considered military options to halt the project.
Ethiopia, however, argues that the construction of the power project was never meant to harm any of the down stream countries (Egypt and Sudan) and insists on its completion, despite external pressure.
Shehata said if the dam project was deemed a threat to Egypt, then Cairo would ask Ethiopia to stop building it further and will instead compensate Ethiopia for the electricity it intends to generate from the dam.
“Egypt should resort to global institutions to find out if Ethiopia has other motives”, he said, adding “Egypt’s reaction should be firm and strong”.
Meanwhile Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir said mutual trust and cooperation is needed between the Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to ensure the power project is a reality.
Unlike Egypt, Sudan had been expressing support to Ethiopia’s Nile dam project and further offered to provide technical support for the project to succeed.
In an interview conducted on Al-Arabiya Saturday, Bashir said Egypt’s ex-president Mohamed Morsi’s rule allegedly heightened tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt.
“Some Egyptian officials under the rule of Morsi who were non-Islamists appeared on air directly threatening Ethiopia, claiming that they would support the opposition and launch military operations targeting the dam itself”, said Bashir.
The over $ 4 billion power plant project, expected to be completed in 2017, will have electricity generating capacity of 6,000 MW. The dam is currently 50 percent completed.