Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cooperation,-not-conflict on Ethiopian Nile Dam- Al-Ahram Weekly

The political and strategic benefits of the Renaissance Dam to Ethiopia exceed its development objectives, reports Doaa El-Bey

Cooperation, not conflict
Speakers cast light on the problems and solutions facing water security of Egypt
Building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which started three years ago, is de facto taking place, which explains the approach of different parties involved. The cabinet’s Supreme Committee for Nile Water is considering legal action against Ethiopia, and the Foreign Ministry has issued a detailed outline of its stand and is highlighting the importance of resolving that issue to all parties in every international visit. Ethiopia continues to call for dialogue because time is in its interest. More recently, a group of academics and experts in the field held a conference entitled “The River Nile: Cooperation rather than Conflict”, to cast light on the problems and their possible solutions.

Egypt described the Nile water issue as an issue of national security. Last month, the Foreign Ministry announced a detailed outline of the official stance on GERD, stating that it is looking forward to negotiating a “win-win” solution for all parties, through which protecting the developmental needs of Ethiopia and the water security of Egypt and Sudan is achieved. A few days later, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atti stressed that an “integrated action plan” is being implemented “gradually” to protect Egypt’s water security interests with regard to the construction of GERD, and that Egypt’s position on the dam is unchanged. He also said that there is no room at all for concessions or allowances harming our interests because it is a subject of national security. The ministry’s plan includes “political, legal and other technical elements”, Abdel-Atti added.

In the meantime, Addis Ababa confirmed that it is ready to open talks with Cairo on the dam project, following news that Egypt has formed a special legal committee to look at the possibility of securing international arbitration over the issue of the dam. Speaking at a ceremony held to mark three years since the construction of the dam started, the Ethiopian Water Minister Alemayehu Tegenu said early this month that his government had “exerted utmost efforts to build trust among all riparian countries,” adding that, “Egypt has continued to engage in negative campaigning against the dam.” Tegenu criticised Cairo’s attempts to politicise the issue and the action of a panel of experts tasked with studying the dam’s potential impact on downstream states.

This week, in the course of the sixth international conference of the Arab Health Water Association (AHWA), a panel of experts drew a detailed and rather sombre picture of the Nile water problem and its impact on Egypt and the region at the legal, technical, geological, environmental, political and hydro-political levels. That was in the sixth international conference. Mohamed Salman Tayel, a political science professor at Cairo University, argued that the project is political rather than developmental. He pointed to the fact that Egypt obtains 96.4 per cent of its water needs from the Nile, compared to two per cent in the case of Ethiopia; thus Nile water is of marginal importance to Addis Ababa. This is a conflict among Nile basin states that started in the 1950s, he went on to explain.

However, Tayel regarded factors as the high cost of the dam, the nature of the land on which it is being built, the relocation of people living in the area, the short life expectancy of the dam, as clear evidence that the purpose of the project is to put political pressure on Egypt. By so doing, Tayel added, Addis Ababa aims to create a state of political satisfaction on the internal level and unite the people on a common cause. On the external level, it aims to achieve hydro-political hegemony on the Nile as the first step on the way becoming “actor and initiator” in the region. In short, it wants to revive Harmon’s principle to “absolute territorial sovereignty”.

Tayel concluded by pointing to possible solutions to the issue like cooperation — which is not reliable at present, imposing a political and strategic siege on Ethiopia through casting light on its policies, creating a regional opinion that supports Egyptian rights, using concepts like “genocide” to describe the impacts of the dam on Egypt, striking political deals with world powers like the US, China, Russia and India, legal escalation though referring the case to the UN and the International Court of Justice.

For his part Abbas Al-Sharaki, a professor at the Cairo University Institute for African Research and Studies, talking about the geological and environmental impact of the dam, agreed with Tayel that the dam is being built for political purposes since it cannot provide Ethiopians with electricity or water but can nonetheless harm Egypt. He explained that the size and storage capacity of the dam could cause mild earthquakes that can affect its body. Thus the possibility of its collapse is very strong. He pointed to other factors that contribute to this view, namely heavy rains, strong flow of water and basalt-rich soil.

Meanwhile, Al-Sharaki pointed to the fact that Ethiopia has no way of transporting what extra water the dam might provide to its people, who depend on rain for irrigation. Though there is a major energy problem in Ethiopia, it is not likely to improve on building the dam because most of the electricity generated would be exported. Talk of the development objectives of the dam are not true and the project is a political scheme that aims to raise the popularity of the regime. Meles Zenawi, Al-Sharaki explained, died as a popular hero because he started the dam project. The present regime gained a lot because it insisted on finishing it.

Legal expert and renowned international negotiator Mofid Shehab emphasised the fact that Nile water is an issue of national security, focusing on the legal side of the problem. He said that Egypt has the legal advantage in its negotiations with Ethiopia, namely all the agreements signed in the past regarding sharing Nile water including the 1929 and 1959 agreements. Shehab identified three main principles that Egypt has never changed in dealing with the Nile water issue: cooperation, insistence on our historical rights to the water and seeking a greater supply via negotiations with the Nile basin countries. At present, he added, we are in a state of international conflict with Ethiopia. But that conflict cannot be resolved except in a peaceful framework built on cooperation.

Shehab outlined two tracks for Egypt to move on: the friendly, and the legal track. The first track would involve negotiation, mediation, fact-finding committees and consensual solutions. However, he elaborated, that track ends with non-binding opinions or recommendations. The second track, Shehab explained, cannot be adopted unless both Egypt and Ethiopia accept it, yet its outcome is binding to all parties concerned. While he believes that the best plan is to follow both tracks simultaneously, Shehab called on all institutions that have experience in the field including civil society and university professors to work together until a fair solution is reached.

Sayed Feleifel, an expert on African issues, focused on the political side of the problem. He said that Ethiopia has been trying for a long time to control Egypt, pointing to its alliance with Israel and South Africa to that purpose. While nothing has changed in this alliance, Egypt has changed: it neglected Africa and delayed implementing development projects there. Thus, he concluded that Ethiopia’s present behaviour confirms that it still has the same will to control Egypt. The fact that an Israeli company will be operating in Ethiopia to generate electricity provides further evidence of this point.

Alaa Al-Zawahri, a professor of irrigation at the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University pointed to the intransigence of the Ethiopian stand, reflected in the condition it imposed on the international tripartite committee responsible for assessing the impacts of GERD. Addis Ababa, he said, insisted that the phrase “under construction” should be included in the committee’s final report, that report should be non-binding and that the committee should base its report on Ethiopian studies only. Meanwhile, he added, during the work of the committee, Ethiopia presented it with simple or incomplete studies while it was going on with the building process. Thus, he emphasised the fact that the Egyptian position is very difficult because the building process is underway.

The way out as Al-Zawahri sees it lies in building a smaller dam that would help Ethiopia generate electricity and in the meantime have less of an impact on Egypt, in addition to completing the building process of the Jonglei Canal that is likely to reduce the amount of water loss and consequently raise the water quota for Egypt and Sudan.

The title of the conference, as Maghawry Shehata Diab, the President of AHWA, pointed out, deliberately stresses cooperation rather than conflict, to highlight the importance of cooperation. Nevertheless, he added, the Nile water problem has political and strategic dimensions. Besides, building GERD and other Ethiopian dams on the Nile reflects a disdain for international laws that organise the fair and legal water sharing of international rivers.

Russian Fighter Jet Buzzes U.S. Navy Destroyer A DOZEN TIMES In The Black Sea - YouTube

Russian Fighter Jet Buzzes U.S. Navy Destroyer A DOZEN TIMES In The Black Sea - YouTube: ""

'via Blog this'

Monday, April 7, 2014

Russian ambassadors:next we'll take Catalonia, Venice, Scotland and Alaska

Russian ambassadors: 'next we'll take Catalonia, Venice, Scotland and Alaska' Unauthenticated, expletive-laden recording of pair joking about which countries to annex after Crimea is leaked online Share 5124 inShare 25 Email Shaun Walker in Moscow theguardian.com, Friday 4 April 2014 12.13 BST Jump to comments (1718) Link to video: 'Russian ambassadors' plan world domination: audio recording of leaked phonecall A recording has surfaced online purporting to be a leaked conversation between two Russian ambassadors discussing which parts of the world they would like to annex after Crimea. The five-minute recording, laden with expletives, has been posted on YouTube and claims to be a telephone call between Igor Chubarov, Russia's ambassador to Eritrea, and Sergei Bakharev, the ambassador to Zimbabwe and Malawi. It has not been authenticated. "We've got Crimea, but that's not fucking all folks. In the future we'll damn well take your Catalonia and Venice, and also Scotland and Alaska," says the voice labelled as Chubarov, interspersing his speech with laughter and punning the word for Scotland in Russian so it sounds like "Cattleland". After this, Chubarov says Russia will make a move for "all those fucking border countries", such as Estonia, as well as Romania and Bulgaria. He adds that the head of the EU mission to Eritrea had jokily said that he wished Russia would "take back" Romania and Bulgaria. In the end, the ambassadors agree it is probably better to leave Bulgaria, Romania and the "Baltic shit" in the EU for now, and Bakharev says it would be more interesting to go for California or Miami. "Exactly, Miamiland is fucking 95% Russian citizens," says Chubarov. "We have a full right to hold a referendum." Bakharev suggests holding one in "Londonland" as well, to jovial laughter. Chubarov congratulates Bakharev on the fact that Zimbabwe was one of only 11 countries, with Syria and North Korea, to back Russia at the UN over its annexation of Crimea. There is also consternation that the "bastards" from Malawi did not support Moscow. It is possible that the leaking of the recording is revenge for the recent spate of high-profile leaks of western diplomatic discussions over Ukraine. A call between the US assistant secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, and the US ambassador in Kiev was leaked, in which Nuland discussed strategy advice for the leaders of the Ukrainian protest movement, as well as stating "fuck the EU" in reference to differences over Ukraine policy. Nuland as good as confirmed the authenticity of the recording, claiming "the tradecraft is really quite impressive". Later, a recording of a conversation between the EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, and the Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Paet, was leaked. They discussed the theory that those who died in Kiev violence could have been shot by snipers hired by the opposition rather than government forces, a line which the Russian foreign ministry has pushed. The reaction in Moscow to the African ambassadors' tape was one more of amusement than anger, especially given that the taped diplomats are significantly lower ranking than Nuland or Ashton. An official Russian source, claiming Nuland not only swears in English, but is proud of her ability to swear in Russian, said: "If this was their response to Nuland's strong expressions, then be assured that no Russian ambassador could outdo her when it comes to swearing in Russian." Maria Zakharova, deputy spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, wrote on Facebook that she had no idea who was talking on the tape, but noted that the photograph appended to the YouTube video of Bakharev bore no resemblance to him. Zakharova insinuated that the recording was clumsy US handiwork and compared it to the incident during the "reset" of relations between Russia and the US, when the then secretary of state. Hillary Clinton. presented the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, with a button that was meant to say "reset", but got the Russian word wrong and thus said "overload". "It's like with the 'overload' button. They wanted to do something better than usual, but it turned out as it always does," wrote Zakharova. Since the crisis in Ukraine began, there has been an increase in the diplomatic war of words and leaks. Last month, in an official statement detailing what it said were false claims from Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, the US state department said: "The world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoevsky". On Thursday, Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov accused the US of "childish tantrums" over Crimea. "What can we advise our American colleagues? They should get more fresh air, do yoga, eat healthily, maybe watch some sitcoms on television," said Ryabkov, in comments to Interfax news agency.