Will Ethiopian prime minister’s visit help resolve difference with Egypt?
Not even a week after Eritrean president Isayas Afewerki paid a visit to Egypt, Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalgne is scheduled for official visit in Egypt which will start this coming Monday. What is he trying to achieve in his three days of an official visit?
Government-affiliated broadcaster, Fana, reported that Hailemariam will have a discussion with president Abdul Fattah al Sisi. Despite some opposition from some parliamentarians, Hailemariam is also scheduled to make a speech in the Egyptian parliament (Maglis El Nowwab) on day two of his visit.
The tripartite talk over the technical impact assessment on Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project in relation to the flow of water to Egypt, which was held in Cairo in September 2017, failed. Perhaps noting undesirable consequence of warnings which were understood as threats of war, Egypt swung to the idea of proposing The World Bank to step in as negotiator between stakeholders.
Ethiopia has been affirming to Egypt that the dam project will not affect Egypt’s share of the Nile water which Sudan seem to agree with.
So the top agenda item for discussion between Hailemariam Desalegne and Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al Sisi is the Dam and Egypt’s proposal of the World Bank as negotiator between stake holders.
Ethiopian Foreign minister, Workeneh Gebeyehu who was in the United Arab Emirates this past week, and other senior members of Ethiopian government will join Hailemarm Desalegne in his trip to Egypt. Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Foreign minister, met with Hailemariam Desalegne and Workeneh Gebeyehu when he visited Addis Ababa in December of 2017 during which he pitched the idea of The World Bank as a negotiator to settle the dispute over impact assessment of the dam to which Ethiopia has not yet given an official response.
The Ethiopian government has been informing the Ethiopian public that the dam project is almost completed. Besides, what makes the discussion with Egypt over the dam project unlikely to bear fruit is that Egypt wants the implementation of colonial time agreement over Nile river to which Ethiopia was not a party. Sudan does not seem to agree with the idea of implementing colonial time agreement over the Nile either. 85 % of the Nile water originates from Ethiopia.
Egypt has been pursuing diplomatic and other avenues to gets its way on the issue of Nile water. It is to be remembered that Ethiopia accused Egypt of meddling in the internal affairs of Ethiopia and Egyptian Ambassador was called by Ethiopian authorities.
Recently, a rumor that mechanized Egyptian force has arrived in Eritrea triggered security concerns in the region but Eritrean government dismissed the news by Aljazeera (Middle East Monitor has also reported about it) as baseless. Eritrean president was in Egypt this week at the invitation of Egyptian president and was accorded warm welcome at the national palace. Eritrean government says that purpose of the visit was to discuss bilateral issues including trade and investment.
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