Saturday, 1 June 2013
Egypt politician threatens to block Suez Canal for ships used by countries that are financing the Nile dam project
Admas | May 30th, 2013
(Ahram Online) – Egypt could close the Suez Canal to ships from countries that help Ethiopia build a controversial dam on the Blue Nile in the event that the dam threatens Egypt’s supply of Nile water, Egyptian Popular Current leader Hamdeen Sabbahi said Wednesday.
"The state is capable of holding talks with the countries financing Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam project, especially China and Italy," Sabbahi said.
He went on to assert that Egypt was capable of prohibiting ships from those countries from transiting the Suez Canal "until they stop harming Egypt’s interests."
He also said that Ethiopia’s decision to go ahead with the project – only days after President Mohamed Morsi’s state visit to the country – was "extremely humiliating to Egyptians."
In comments reported by Al-Ahram Arabic news website, Sabbahi also called on Egyptians to support the government in its dispute with Ethiopia over the dam.
On Tuesday, Ethiopia began diverting the course of the Blue Nile, one of the Nile River’s two major tributaries, as part of its ‘Renaissance Dam’ project for electricity production, a move that raised concerns in Egypt and Sudan that the flow of water could be disrupted.
A final report on the impact of the planned dam by a joint committee of Egyptian, Sudanese and Ethiopian representatives is expected within days.
"We will not accept any pressure when it comes to our water supply," Sabbahi said. "Solutions must be presented to avoid conflict."
If Ethiopia continues with projects that harm Egypt, the nation will unite to deter an attack on its interests, he added.
Sabbahi said that while he fully supports Ethiopia’s right to increase its energy production, Egypt would not accept any reductions in its annual water supply.
If matters escalate, he said, a drop of water would exceed a drop of blood in value. The best way to avoid conflict is to open new initiatives for strategic cooperation in the Nile Basin, he added.
During the 21st African Union summit, President Morsi said Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam had vowed to consider Egypt’s interests regarding the dam.
Egypt’s ambassador in Addis Ababa, Mohamed Idris, said Ethiopia’s intention to divert the Blue Nile had been known since November 2012.
According to the state-run National Planning Institute, Egypt will require an additional 21 billion cubic metres of water per year by 2050 – on top of its current annual quota of 55 billion metres – to meet the needs of a projected population of some 150 million.
Egyptians up in arms as Ethiopia builds giant hydro dam on Nile River; minister rules out war Associated Press
Ethiopia's construction of Africa's largest hydroelectric dam on the world's longest river threatens to affect flows of water to Nile-dependent, water-starved Egypt, where there is growing outrage, anger and fear.
Egypt in the past has threatened to go to war over its "historic rights" to Nile River water but diplomats from both countries this week played down the potential for conflict.
"A military solution for the Nile River crisis is ruled out," Egypt's irrigation and water resources minister, Mohammed Baheddin, said Thursday amid newspaper reports recalling the threats of war from Egypt's two previous leaders, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak.
Ethiopia on Tuesday started diverting the flow of the Blue Nile for construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Eighty-five percent of Nile waters originate in Ethiopia yet the East African nation whose name has become synonymous with famine thus far utilizes very little of those waters.
Ethiopia's decision challenges a colonial-era agreement that had given downstream Egypt and Sudan rights to the Nile water, with Egypt taking 55.5 billion cubic meters and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic meters of 84 billion cubic meters, with 10 billion lost to evaporation. That agreement, first signed in 1929, took no account of the eight other nations along the 6,700-kilometer (4,160-mile) river and its basin, which have been agitating for a decade for a more equitable accord.
And Ethiopia's unilateral action seems to ignore the 10-nation Nile Basin Initiative to promote cooperation.
Ethiopia is leading five nations threatening to sign a new cooperation agreement without Egypt and Sudan, effectively taking control from Egypt of the Nile, which serves some 238 million people.