İSTANBUL, TODAY’S ZAMAN
Turkey responded on Thursday to Egyptian criticism on the construction of a controversial dam on the Blue Nile River, saying the accusations against the Turkish government are baseless.
The Ethiopian dam, called the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, appears to be the latest hitch between Turkey and Egypt, both of which have mutually expelled each other’s ambassadors in a bitter row over the toppling of Egypt’s former President Mohammed Morsi in a coup last year. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has strongly criticized the ousting of Morsi and said he considers the toppled Muslim Brotherhood politician as the legitimate president of Egypt, angering the Egyptian administration.
Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Muttalib said earlier this week that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu offered Turkish expertise on Ethiopia’s multi-billion dollar hydroelectric dam project when he visited Addis Ababa last month. “What I want to say is that when Turkey built the Atatürk Dam, it made the Syrians and the Iraqis thirsty and ignored international agreements. I want to stress that Egypt is not Iraq or Syria, and Ethiopia is not Turkey,” Abdel-Muttalib was quoted as saying by Turkish news portal World Bulletin in televised remarks on Tuesday.
Egypt, which relies heavily on the waters of the Blue Nile River, wants Ethiopia to suspend the $4.2 billion project to build the dam until its downstream impacts are determined, which Ethiopia rejects.
Davutoğlu’s visit to Addis Ababa has led to accusations in the Egyptian media that Turkey and Israel are behind the controversial project. “Any side that doesn’t like Egypt could be in the scene,” Abdel-Muttalib said on Tuesday. Responding to the Egyptian accusations, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “regrets baseless accusations” made by Abdel-Muttalib regarding “both Davutoğlu’s visit to Addis Ababa and the water policies of our country”.
“We reject these accusations and increasing allegations about our country in the Egyptian media, which can only be considered as imaginary,” said the statement.
In remarks to the state-run Anadolu news agency on Wednesday, Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti also dismissed Egyptian accusations that Turkey and Israel were behind the country’s dam project, even though he confirmed that Turkey has offered assistance for the construction of the dam.
“[Such reports] have increased in both frequency and volume, especially after the Turkish foreign minister, during his recent visit to Addis Ababa, offered to share Turkey’s experience regarding the [construction of the] Atatürk Dam [in southeastern Anatolia] with Ethiopia,” Mufti said.
Mufti also said that Egypt had been hinting at an Israeli role in the Ethiopian dam project in hopes of fanning Arab sentiments against it. The project, Mufti asserted, had been conceived, designed and financed — and is now being implemented — entirely by Ethiopians, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Morsi, a close ally of Erdoğan, had also opposed the construction of the Ethiopian dam, saying weeks before his ousting in June that “all options are open” to deal with any threat to Egypt’s water supply posed by the dam.