Cairo (HAN) March 7th, 2014 – 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 escalator 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 online paper, 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
“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 Al-Amoudi Group in infrastructure projects. Saudi Arabia. Mohammed Al Amoudi, an Ethiopian Billionaires, the son of Saudi father and Ethiopian mother has built his fortune with day and night hard work and motivations to be something has encouraged him to cornering productive construction contracts in Saudi Arabia. He is the owner of Midroc Group, owns a group of oil refineries in Sweden and Morocco. 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.
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.
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.
Sources: HAN & al-monitor.com
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