“Ethiopia was deeply frustrated to see further unconstructive propaganda aired about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the presence of President Mohamed Morsi, Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, and other high ranking Egyptian officials at the Popular Conference on Egypt’s Rights to Nile Water,” read a statement released by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry criticised “malicious” suggestions made at the conference on ways to pressure Ethiopia to halt construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
“There were, in general, a series of provocative statements attacking both the national interest of Ethiopia and the will of its people to escape poverty,” the statement read.
President Mohamed Morsi gave a speech at the popular conference on Monday.
The conference was organised by several Islamist parties to discuss the dam project and its effects on Egypt’s share of Nile water.
“If our share of Nile water decreases, our blood will be the alternative,” was one of the statements made by President Morsi that some politicians considered a declaration of war.
The Foreign Ministry of Ethiopia stated that any suggestions of war or sabotage were unacceptable.
“The [Ethiopian] Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously issued a statement on the unhelpful and unnecessary propaganda campaign being carried out by some Egyptian politicians, civil society leaders and political parties about the GERD,” Ethiopia’s ministry statement read.
It added that the ministry had called the Egyptian ambassador in Addis Ababa twice to explain his government’s position over these comments and the Ethiopian government requested formal clarification from the Egyptian government as well.
President Morsi said at the conference that Egyptians are “patient” and have the ability to endure anything except threats to their security or their “source of life” (the Nile) and would unite and “uproot” threats, wherever they came from.
“Ethiopia affirms that it will not be discouraged by this violent rhetoric. It reiterates in the strongest possible terms that it will not accept any proposal, from Egypt, to halt or delay the construction of the [dam],” the statement read.
The statement added that the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was used as an element of Egyptian internal domestic politics which is “against the interests of the people of Egypt.”
Head of the Sudan and Nile Basin Unit at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies Hany Raslan considered Morsi’s speech an “unjustified escalation”.
“The threatening tone and talking of blood was unjustified, especially that Morsi had announced intentions to negotiate with Ethiopia,” he said.
Raslan believed Morsi was using the dam issue politically to evade opposition protests scheduled for 30 June against his regime.
Deputy Secretary General of the Salafi Al-Nour Party Shaaban Abdel Alim disagreed. “The intense tone is a must; it’s a matter of life or death,” he said.
He criticised claims that the president’s speech was inflammatory and stressed that all options for Egypt were on the table when dealing with the Ethiopian dam issue.
Ethiopia extended its appreciation to the government of Sudan for its positive statements about the dam’s construction, and hoped that “others could learn much from the strong stance taken by Sudan in this regard.”
Ethiopia made clear that it had an unshakable belief in “friendship, cooperation and mutual benefit as the underlying principles of its relations with all friendly states, including Egypt.”
Egypt’s National Security Council held a meeting on Wednesday at the Presidential Palace, headed by Morsi, to discuss several important topics. The Renaissance Dam and its potential impacts on Egypt’s water security were at the top of the meeting’s agenda.