At one point it seemed that the two countries might be able to resolve their differences over the Renaissance Dam construction project in Ethiopia, which threatens Egypt’s already precarious water supply.
In a bizarre twist, Egypt at one point proposed to help with the project’s construction.
But talks between them and Sudan broke down and Ethiopia continues to adopt a fairly noncooperative stance over water rights that were established by colonial powers in 1929.
Politically crippled back home and in no position to exert any kind of power, Egypt has conveyed plans to play its only trump card to ensure its population of nearly 81 million has some semblance of water security: getting Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries on board.
“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, an Egyptian official told Al Monitor. “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 same official told the paper that Egypt has received reassurances from both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (but not Qatar, notably) that they are on board to help with any issues related to national security.
Mahmoud Abu Zeid, who heads up the Arab Water Council, told the paper that Gulf countries could definitely persuade Ethiopia to reconsider its position with Egypt as long as the two countries reached a consensus, while an Egyptian diplomat who asked to remain anonymous was more direct.
“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, the official told Al Monitor.
Since Saudi Arabia invests more money in Ethiopia than any other country – up to $3 billion in 2011, it probably doesn’t make much sense to test their loyalty.