Still no clarification on Deputy Defence Minister’s provocative statement
Saudi Arabia released a conciliatory statement in regards to relations with Ethiopia following the enquiry by the Ethiopian government
for clarification on a statement issued by a senior Saudi official, in relation to the Grand Renaissance Dam (GRD).
The Saudi government’s response was made public early last week noting the good relationship between the two countries, but stopped short of officially addressing, or at least commenting on the hostile statement given by the official.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, stated that relations between the two countries were excellent and stressed that it was long-standing, as well as deep-rooted. His statement was posted on the ministry’s official website, but clear references or explanations were not made about the issue in question. “The first Hijra (migration) in Islam was to Abyssinia, and the ties between the people of the two countries are long standing and we have a prestigious history,” he said.
In the press statement on March 4, 2013, the Minister continued by saying, “I have seen the development of relations with Abyssinia, which has reached an excellent level of cooperation in various fields right now,” and cited the significant and expanding trade between the two countries.
The Prince also noted that Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia are working together to calm and stabilize the volatile situation in the Horn of Africa.
Meanwhile, the inflammatory comments made by Kalid bin Sultan Deputy Defence Minister of Saudi Arabia, have not been addressed.
The Deputy Defence Minister was quoted as saying at a meeting of the Third Arab Water Council held on February 26th in Cairo, Egypt that the Grand Renaissance Dam (GRD) will have a capacity of reaching more than 70 billion cubic meters by volume and is located at an altitude of 700 meters; if it collapses, Khartoum will be completely flooded and the impact will even affect the Aswan Dam.
Diplomatic sources at the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) explained that such adverse statements have not directly come from either Sudan or Egypt, but indicated that such issues may be raised in bilateral discussions between the Saudi official and these countries. According to our sources, the Ethiopian government is still enquiring and pursuing official clarification on the deputy defence minister’s statement.
Dina Mufti (Amb.), spokesperson of MoFA, told Capital that the statement made by the Saudi Foreign Minister was encouraging as it gave emphasis to the historical and current good relations between the two countries. “This is also what we believe, but we want to comprehend what the real reason was for the unprovoked aggressive statement on Ethiopia made by the Deputy Defence Minister.”
A week ago, the spokesperson informed Capital that high government officials had summoned Abdu Al Bagi, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia, to explain the intents and contents of the speech. During the talks, the Saudi ambassador made it clear that the Deputy Defence Minister’s speech did not represent his government’s position or views.
Saudi does not share borders with Ethiopia nor does the Nile pass through its territories. However, in his speech, the Saudi Deputy Defence Minister is quoted as saying that Egypt will be affected the most by the building of the dam, because they do not have alternative water sources compared to other Nile Basin countries, and the establishment of the dam 12km from the Sudanese border is for political plotting rather than for economic gain and constitutes a threat to Egyptian and Sudanese national security.
The Saudi Deputy Defence Minister is said to have gone further by claiming that Ethiopia was keen on harming Arab nations.
The construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam (GRD) officially commenced in May 2011. The necessary finance for the project, estimated at about 76 billion birr, will be fully covered by the government of Ethiopia.
The Grand Renaissance Dam, which will produce 6,000MW of electric power, is expected to commence first phase production by 2015. With this and other several electric power projects, Ethiopia plans to extensively expand its electric power production by up to 10,000MW by 2015, from the current 2,200MW. Ethiopia is also working to be one of the biggest power exporters on the continent.
On several occasions, the Ethiopian government disclosed that the electric dam project on the Blue Nile will continue without any delay, alongside negotiations with Nile Basin downstream countries.