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Egypt’s President Sisi Pressures Ethiopia for Dam Deal

Egypt’s President Sisi Pressures Ethiopia for Dam Deal

Sisi strengthens his regional ties, as the relationship between Cairo and Washington, DC grows substantially cooler.

Last summer, I reported that Ethiopia completed the initial filling of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a nearly $5 billion hydroelectricity project.

There was a diplomatic kerfuffle when an Ethiopian minister announced, “the Nile is ours.” Needless to say that Egyptian officials disagreed.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has now called for a binding deal by the summer on the dam’s operation during his recent visit to Sudan.

Egypt also signalled support for Sudan in a dispute with Ethiopia over an area on the border between the two countries where there have recently been armed skirmishes.

Both Egypt and Sudan lie downstream from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Addis Ababa says is crucial to its economic development.

Ethiopia, which says it has every right to use Nile waters long exploited by Egypt, started filling the reservoir behind the dam last summer after Egypt and Sudan failed to secure a legally binding agreement on how the dam will be operated.

Khartoum fears the dam, which lies on the Blue Nile close to the border with Sudan, could increase the risk of flooding and affect the safe operation of its own Nile dams, while water-scarce Egypt fears its supplies from the Nile could be hit.

Ethiopian officials reported that they hit the first-year filling target last year, will forge ahead with the second phase of filling regardless of whether an agreement is in place.

Egypt and Sudan “have agreed to relaunch negotiations with quadripartite mediation that includes the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States… to reach a deal before the flood season”, Sisi added, standing alongside Sudanese head of state General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

…The visit to Khartoum, Sisi’s first since Islamist Bashir’s ouster in April 2019, comes amid efforts to bolster Sudanese-Egyptian ties and amid tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia over a disputed border region.

His talks with Burhan, and separately with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, also addressed maritime security in the Red Sea and the Sudan-Ethiopia border tensions, state TV reported.

Meanwhile this week, top Egyptian and Sudanese army officials signed a deal on military cooperation between the two countries, while Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi discussed the GERD in Cairo with Sisi and other Egyptian officials, according to Egypt’s foreign ministry.

Sisi had a warm relationship with former President Donald Trump. Therefore, given the current administration policies, one can project that the relationship between Cairo and Washington, D.C. will be substantially cooler….along the lines of a Polar Vortex.

President Joe Biden’s administration expressed concern about the Egyptian government’s human rights record Tuesday, especially after family members of a U.S. citizen and human rights activist were detained. But hours later, the State Department announced the sale of nearly $200 million of weapons to Cairo — the first substantial arms transfer to the Middle East in Biden’s young term.

The case has become a test of how Biden will approach the government of President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, the former military commander who seized power in 2014 and ousted Egypt’s elected Islamist government.


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stevewhitemd | March 8, 2021 at 3:12 pm

I think I’m missing something. When you build a dam, you temporarily lower the flow downstream while you fill the reservoir. But at some point you have to resume the downstream flow, otherwise the reservoir is over-filled and your dam breaks.

So Egypt and Sudan are in for some temporary reductions in the flow of the Blue Nile, something that friendlier nations could have managed. But in the not too distant future they’ll have about their usual amounts of water.

A prosperous Ethiopia is one that won’t be meddling with its neighbors. What’s not to like?

    UnCivilServant in reply to stevewhitemd. | March 8, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    The problem is not now, but in a drought year when Ethiopia can shut off the flow downstream and divert the water to keep their own fields irrigated at the expense of those downstream.

    Dtroughts in Ethiopia are not uncommon.

      MattMusson in reply to UnCivilServant. | March 8, 2021 at 4:04 pm

      Egypt is currently importing 50% of the calories they consume. And, the 50% they do grow is dependent upon imported fertilizers and insecticides.

      Without those inputs, you have biblical famine. Without enough water, you have biblical famine. If there is an interruption in foreign trade, you have biblical famine.

      Basically, Egypt has a sword dangling over there heads. If they make any mistake or just have some bad luck, there is famine.

        audax in reply to MattMusson. | March 9, 2021 at 7:32 am

        Egypt produces much of its own ammonia and urea fertilizer. They even sell these fertilizer’s on the open market. Please stop spreading dis-information.

          MattMusson in reply to audax. | March 9, 2021 at 8:30 am

          You are correct about the ammonia production and I was wrong. The recent increases in Egyptian Natural Gas production has supported the domestic production of fertilizer.

    alaskabob in reply to stevewhitemd. | March 8, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Ethiopia is not “prosperous”… they are a vassal state of China. China owns them and thus “controls” Egypt.

Just get the dam deal done.

    fscarn in reply to UJ. | March 8, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    “I am your dam guide, Arnie. Please don’t wander off the dam tour and please take all the dam pictures you want. Now are there any dam questions?”

2smartforlibs | March 8, 2021 at 3:29 pm

Seems like the same problem that states have dealt with since man first found he could build a damn.