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Ethiopian PM's Claim About Building 100 New Dams Provokes Egyptian Ire

FILE - This handout picture taken on July 20, 2020, and released by Adwa Pictures on July 27, 2020, shows an aerial view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River in Guba, northwest Ethiopia.

Egyptian media broadcast an angry statement by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Hafez criticizing Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed's declaration about building "100 new small and medium-sized dams" on waterways across his country during the next year.

Hafez indicated the plan is "a sign of Ethiopia's ill intentions" regarding the conflict over filling the Renaissance Dam, which has caused a casus belli with both Egypt and neighboring Sudan. Hafez added that Ethiopia must "coordinate such plans with its neighbors before causing them damage."

FILE - Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2019.
FILE - Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2019.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi visited Djibouti last week, insisting during a press conference he was still hoping to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Ethiopia over filling the dam.

Sissi said he discussed the Renaissance Dam situation, which affects the interests of the entire region, and the need for a fair and balanced agreement over filling and operating the dam, as soon as possible. He noted Egypt's refusal of the effort of any party to impose its own plan that doesn't meet the interests or rights of countries whose interests are affected.

Egyptian political sociologist Said Sadek said the issue of Ethiopia filling the Renaissance Dam for a second year, starting in July, has provoked the wrath of the Egyptian public.

"Public opinion is very angry and is pushing the government to react to the provocation of Ethiopian politicians and media, who are always speaking in a very provocative way against the Egyptian people and the Egyptian government," Sadek said.

He went on to say that Egyptian opposition forces -- based mostly outside the country -- were calling for protests over what they claimed was the government's "mishandling" of the crisis.

Sadek added that Egyptian officials were perplexed over the unwillingness of influential foreign powerbrokers like the EU, the United States and the African Union to use their influence to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Paul Sullivan, a professor at the U.S. National Defense University in Washington, tells VOA that Ethiopia's construction of the GERD [Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam] is "inflaming enough, [but] building [100 more] dams creates greater incitement and is an accelerating aggression."

He goes on to stress that "Egypt will need to respond," and "if Ethiopia wants peace, they are giving indications of just the opposite. If this comes to war," he argues, "all will lose and massively." He said a "reasonable settlement" would be ideal, but that things "seem to be going in the opposite direction."

The Egyptian military has been conducting maneuvers with a number of regional countries in recent days, including Sudan, in order to show its readiness in the event a conflict erupts.