By Anadolu Agency
February 11, 2014
ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said Monday that dialogue was the only way to bridge outstanding differences between Ethiopia and Egypt about a multi-billion dollar hydroelectric dam on the Nile River.
“I know dialogue will continue. I don’t see there will be a military solution and [talk of] war is absurd. It doesn’t work,” Dessalegn told a press conference in Addis Ababa.
“This kind of problem is solved through dialogue,” he said. “From the Ethiopian side, we are ready to see a cooperative way to find solution through dialogue.”
Plans by Ethiopia to build a massive hydroelectric dam, dubbed the “Grand Renaissance Dam Project,” on the Blue Nile – the primary source of Egypt’s water supply –sent shockwaves down Egypt’s Nile Valley.
Water distribution among the states of the Nile basin have long depended on a colonial-era treaty giving Egypt and Sudan the lion’s share of Nile water.
Citing its own development needs, however, Ethiopia insists that it must build a series of dams to generate electricity – both for local consumption and export.
Addis Ababa maintains that the new dam will benefit Egypt and Sudan, both of which will be invited to purchase electricity thus generated.
The Ethiopian premier said that his country wants to see a stable and democratic Egypt.
“If General [Abdel-Fattah] al-Sisi is elected, I am ready to work with him,” he said.
Calls have grown for al-Sisi, who led the army move to unseat elected president Mohamed Morsi, to run in Egypt’s upcoming presidential election, expected within three months.
Turning to the conflict in South Sudan, the Ethiopian premier said that the Inter-government Authority for Development (IGAD) has authorized the Ugandan army to protect the government in Juba.
“We denounce unconstitutional power seizure and this is the position of all IGAD states,” he said. “IGAD has a clear position in this regard. Uganda has to protect the government.”
He, however, said that forces from Uganda and other countries must leave South Sudan phase by phase.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since mid-August after President Salva Kiir accused sacked vice president Riek Machar of staging a coup.
The two warring parties have been engaging in IGAD-mediated peace talks in Addis Ababa to solve the conflict.
Speaking about his country’s policy on Eritrea, Dessalegn said Ethiopia is determined to normalize relations with Eritrea without precondition.
He, however, said that his government is not optimistic that Eritrea will positively respond.
“I do not think that (negotiations) will open soon,” he said, warning Eritrea against any move to destabilize Ethiopia and the region.
If Eritrea continues in its destructive acts, Ethiopia will respond with proportional measures, he warned.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a three-year war in 1998 over disputed border areas.
Regarding Somalia, Dessalegn said that African peacekeepers are gaining foothold against the militant Al-Shabaab group in Somalia.
“Al-Shabaab is now on the run and this is a sign of its defeat. We will continue the offensive,” he said.
Somalia has remained in the grip of political violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
However, the country’s political situation appears to have stabilized recently with the establishment of a new government and intervention by African Union troops tasked with countering an insurgency waged by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab.