Voices from the Arab press: Juncture in Ethiopian-Egyptian relations

In what can only be interpreted as a blatant act of defiance, Ethiopia launched the second filling of the Renaissance Dam, ignoring international law and turning its back on a diplomatic solution.

SUPPORTERS OF Syrian President Bashar Assad celebrate after he won a fourth term in office, in Damascus on May 27 (photo credit: REUTERS/OMAR SANADIKI)
SUPPORTERS OF Syrian President Bashar Assad celebrate after he won a fourth term in office, in Damascus on May 27


Al-Ahram, Egypt, May 28
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In what can only be interpreted as a blatant act of defiance, Ethiopia launched the second filling of the Renaissance Dam, ignoring international law and turning its back on a diplomatic solution that could end its dispute with both Egypt and Sudan. The second filling took place without any warning or coordination with the downstream countries. According to several experts, the waters diverted for the sake of the filling project could already lead to severe drought in Egypt. So, as it seems, Ethiopia started a real war: an unjustified and blatant assault on the well-established historical rights of Egypt and Sudan to the Nile waters. In carrying out the second filling, Ethiopia overturned the agreement signed between the three countries in 2015, which requires full coordination among Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on any filling and operation of the dam. And since this move completely violates the agreement, the Ethiopian move must be viewed as nothing more than an act of piracy. Today, Ethiopia revealed its ugly face, and dropped the fake masks behind which its leaders have been hiding. Ethiopia’s euphemisms and empty promises have been exposed. Just think of the words of Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, who only recently swore to the Egyptian people that his country would never harm or undermine Egypt’s access to the Nile waters. The Nile is an existential matter for Egypt. The Egyptian government and people will not accept Ethiopia’s robbery of the Nile waters, which threatens Egypt’s very existence. The Nile has been the source of life in Egypt for over 7,000 years. Ethiopia is mistaken if it believes that the patience of the Egyptian people can be interpreted as weakness. If it persists in its mistake of setting facts on the ground for Egypt, then it will be met with an unequivocal and harsh response. We are nearing our D-Day. Egypt has red lines. It has capabilities to defend its water security and national interests. And it won’t be afraid to do so. – Ali Mahmoud


Al Rai, Kuwait, May 28
While casting his vote in the Syrian presidential elections, Bashar Assad said that his regime did not pay any attention to the West’s statements about the elections, and then addressed the Westerners directly: “The value of your opinions is zero.” Whatever one thinks about the integrity of these elections, the fact remains that Assad was right: The Western world’s opinion doesn’t matter. The Western world lied time and again. It lied when it said that attacking peaceful marches would be met with a violent reaction against the Assad regime. It lied when it said that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime is a red line that must not be crossed. It lied when it said that the use of heavy artillery against demonstrators would not go by unanswered. It lied when it said that the killer of his own people had no place in the future of Syria and that a political transition of power was necessary. It lied when it said that the Iranian and Russian involvement in Syria was unacceptable. Unfortunately, however, it turned out that none of these things mattered. The tragedy of Syrian men, women and children didn’t really spark the interest of anyone in the Western world. Entire neighborhoods in Syria turned into mountains of rubble, burying innocent civilians beneath them, while the Western world looked the other way. After all these lies, why would Assad have any reason to pay attention to Western statements? Why would anything Western leaders say carry any credibility or weight? Assad is right in disregarding what Western voices have to say about the elections. Their words stopped mattering a long time ago.
– Ali Al-Roz


Al-Ittihad, UAE, May 29
The coup that took place in Mali last week raises a question about the future of armed groups that adopt Islam as their ideology, and practice terrorism in its name. Mali, the eighth-largest country in Africa, has witnessed four coups since its independence from France in 1960. Geographically, it is close to one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world, Boko Haram, which originated in Nigeria. The Al-Mourabitoun organization, allied with Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, was unable to take over Mali and declare a caliphate due to the Western intervention in the country – especially of French forces. These foreign troops prevented local terror groups from achieving their goal of establishing a home base in Mali. With no other options left, terror groups resorted to mass violence across the war-torn country. For example, in November 2015, terror groups stormed a hotel in the capital city of Bamako and took several hostages, including French, American, Chinese and Turkish nationals. Malian forces intervened to rescue them, backed by a 300-person special unit of the French army that had been stationed in Mali. This begs the question of whether terror groups will continue pursuing grand objectives such as forming a caliphate and establishing independent statelets or whether they are merely interested in high-visibility attacks that garner widespread media attention. France intervened and prevented the extremists from seizing northern Mali and declaring a state there, similar to what we witnessed in Syria, Iraq and Somalia. But the kidnapping incident served as an act of revenge against Mali and the West. Those who took over the government last week must work to stabilize the political and security situation in the country. Terrorists thrive in political turmoil, and this most recent coup is no exception. The Al-Mourabitoun organization is carefully and patiently observing the events in Bamako and waiting for the right moment to act. There is real fear that the change in government in Mali will result in a series of terror attacks that undermine the country’s sovereignty. They could also target Western assets in Mali such as embassies and major companies. Therefore, whoever takes the reins in the upcoming days and weeks must first and foremost aspire to restore public order in Mali and work with Western countries to keep a close watch over local terror groups. – Ammar Ali Hassan

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.