Ethiopia blasts Trump remark that Egypt will 'blow up' dam

  • FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center right, walks with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center-left, after meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Addis Ababa. The State Department said Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 that on the guidance of President Donald Trump the U.S. is suspending some aid to Ethiopia over the "lack of progress" in talks with Egypt and Sudan over a massive, disputed dam project which Egypt has called an existential threat and worries will reduce the country's share of Nile waters. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP, File)

    FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center right, walks with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center-left, after meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Addis Ababa. The State Department said Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 that on the guidance of President Donald Trump the U.S. is suspending some aid to Ethiopia over the "lack of progress" in talks with Egypt and Sudan over a massive, disputed dam project which Egypt has called an existential threat and worries will reduce the country's share of Nile waters. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP, File) Associated Press

 
 
Posted10/24/2020 7:00 AM

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Ethiopia on Saturday denounced 'œbelligerent threats' over the huge dam it has nearly completed on the Blue Nile River, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said downstream Egypt will 'œblow up' the project it has called an existential threat.

Without naming Trump or the U.S., the statement by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office came amid an outcry in Ethiopia over Trump's latest threat over the dam. The $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a source of national pride, aimed at pulling millions of people from poverty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

'œThe man doesn't have a clue on what he is talking about,' Former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn tweeted, calling Trump's remark reckless and irresponsible.

Trump made the comment while announcing that Sudan would start to normalize ties with Israel. Downstream Sudan is a party to the talks with Ethiopia and Egypt over the disputed dam. 'œThey (Egypt) will end up blowing up the dam,' Trump said. 'œAnd I said it and I say it loud and clear '» they'll blow up that dam. And they have to do something.'

The U.S. president earlier this year told the State Department to suspend millions of dollars in aid to Ethiopia because of the dam dispute, angering Ethiopians who had accused the U.S. of being biased during its earlier efforts to broker a deal on the project among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia walked away from those talks.

'œThey will never see that money unless they adhere to that agreement,' Trump said Friday.

'œOccasional statements of belligerent threats to have Ethiopia succumb to unfair terms still abound,' Ethiopia's statement said Saturday. 'œThese threats and affronts to Ethiopian sovereignty are misguided, unproductive, and clear violations of international law.'

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It added: 'œEthiopia will not cave in to aggressions of any kind.'

There was no comment from the Egyptian government on Trump's remarks, but pro-government media covered them extensively.

Egypt has repeatedly said it wants to settle the dispute through diplomatic means, but it has said it would use 'œall available means' to defend the interests of its people.

Ethiopia celebrated the first filling of the dam in August, citing heavy rains, to the dismay of Egypt. Ethiopia later banned flights over the dam amid concerns over possible military action by Egypt.

Now, with Trump's new remarks, some Ethiopians are urging Ethiopian Americans to help vote him out of office in next month's election.

The statement by Abiy's office said the talks with Egypt and Sudan have shown significant progress since the African Union has stepped in to oversee them. Trump's statement could undermine that process, said Abel Abate Demissie, an associate fellow at Chatham House, adding that it proves the U.S. wasn't an honest broker from the start.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ethiopia says the colossal dam could help it become a major power exporter. Egypt depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and a booming population of 100 million with fresh water.

Negotiators have said key questions remain about how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes. Ethiopia rejects binding arbitration at the final stage.

A military strike on the dam would be disastrous, one water expert warned. The dam already has more than 4.9 billion cubic meters of water in its reservoir,' Abebe Yirga told The Associated Press. 'œIt will affect thousands of people along the way if this huge amount of water gushes out of the dam.'

The Blue Nile joins the White Nile in Sudan to become the Nile, and about 85% of the river's flow originates from Ethiopia. Officials hope the dam, now more than three-quarters complete, will reach full power-generating capacity in 2023.

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Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed.

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