Egypt, Ethiopia to meet in Washington over Nile dam

A boy looks from the observation deck of the Cairo Tower in the centre of the Egyptian capital on October 23, 2019, at a view of the Nile river flowing through the city between the central downtown (background) and Zamalek districts (foreground). (AFP)
Updated 30 October 2019

Egypt, Ethiopia to meet in Washington over Nile dam

  • Addis Ababa insists its $4 billion hydro-electric dam is necessary to provide the country with electricity
  • Egypt fears the structure could drastically stem the flow of the Nile

CAIRO: Egypt’s foreign minister confirmed Tuesday that his country would take part in mediated talks in Washington next month over a controversial dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile.
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia “will meet in the United States on 6 November... to break the deadlock in the ongoing negotiations regarding the Renaissance Dam,” Sameh Shoukry said at a press conference held with his German counterpart Heiko Maas.
Addis Ababa insists its $4 billion hydro-electric barrage is necessary to provide the country with much-needed electricity.
But Egypt fears the structure could drastically stem the flow of the Nile, on which it depends for around 90 percent of its water supply.
After calling for international mediation to break the stalemate in nine-year talks, Cairo accepted a US invitation to meet earlier in the month, but no date was set.
Shoukry noted Tuesday that US officials would be present at the talks acting as “intermediaries that can draw divergent viewpoints closer together...to bring about a fair and just agreement.”
A US official said earlier this month that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi had asked US President Donald Trump to get involved in the dispute when they met in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Trump agreed to reach out to Ethiopia and offered the “good offices” of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to mediate, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Ethiopia and Egypt’s leaders met on the sidelines of Russia’s Africa summit on Thursday to discuss a contentious dam project on the River Nile, a diplomat said.
Russia, which was hosting an Africa Summit in its Black Sea resort of Sochi in an attempt to revive its Soviet-era influence on the continent, has said it is ready to play a role in resolving the conflict.
Last week, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told parliament that “no force can stop Ethiopia from building the dam.”
Abiy, who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to heal tensions with neighboring Eritrea, emphasised however that negotiations would be the best way to resolve the issue.
The Nile is a lifeline supplying both water and electricity to the 10 countries it traverses.
Its main tributaries, the White and Blue Niles, converge in Sudanese capital Khartoum before flowing north through Egypt to drain into the Mediterranean Sea.
Analysts fear the three Nile basin countries could be drawn into a conflict if the dispute is not resolved before the dam begins operating.


UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

Updated 29 min 12 sec ago

UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

  • Husband Richard Ratcliffe: Iran has ordered Nazanin to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab: Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen”

LONDON: Britain on Friday warned Iran against throwing detained woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe back in jail, after hauling in Tehran’s envoy for a dressing-down over her emotive case.
The Foreign Office summoned Ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad on Thursday to hear renewed demands from a senior official for an end to the British-Iranian captive’s “arbitrary detention.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC radio Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in a “horrific position,” after her husband said Iran has ordered her to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail.
Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen,” Raab said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who will turn 42 on Boxing Day, has been on temporary release from Tehran’s Evin prison and under house arrest since earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016 while visiting relatives with her young daughter.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the media organization’s philanthropic arm — denied charges of sedition but was convicted and jailed for five years.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016. (AFP)

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said this week that the Foreign Office’s handling of the case “seems disastrous,” and that “the UK is dancing to Iran’s tune.”
Raab told the BBC: “We’ve made it very clear we want to try to put the relationship between the UK and Iran on a better footing.
“If Nazanin is returned to prison, that will of course put our discussions and the basis of those discussions in a totally different place. It is entirely unacceptable.”
Richard Ratcliffe linked the latest development to the postponement of a hearing that was due to take place on Tuesday in London to address Iran’s longstanding demand for the repayment by Britain of hundreds of millions from an old military equipment order.
“As Nazanin’s husband, I do think that if she’s not home for Christmas, there’s every chance this could run for years,” he said, accusing Iran of “hostage diplomacy.”