By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
April 21, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – Saudi Arabia on Saturday removed the Kingdom’s deputy defense minister who recently made hostile remarks over Ethiopia’s massive dam project being built on the Blue Nile River only 30km upstream from Sudan.
Speaking at a session of the Arab Water Council held in Cairo late in February, the Saudi deputy defense minister, Khalid Bin Sultan, firmly opposed Ethiopia’s right to use the Nile waters saying the construction of the $4.8 billion hydro power dam project poses a security threat to Sudan and Egypt.
His remarks led to tensions between the horn of Africa nation and the Saudi Kingdom.
The minister said at the time that the Ethiopian Renaissance dam is intended for political plotting rather than for economic gain.
He went on to saying that Ethiopia is keen to harm the down stream Arab countries and further suggested that military action was an option to the ongoing dispute over the amount of water Nile basin countries are allowed use.
“There are fingers messing with water resources of Sudan and Egypt which are rooted in the mind and body of Ethiopia. They do not forsake an opportunity to harm Arabs without taking advantage of it”, he added.
Addis Ababa responded fiercely saying that the statement by the minister could negatively affect diplomatic ties between Arab nations and other Nile basin countries and requested an urgent explanation from the Saudi government.
Earlier this month, the government of Saudi has officially rebuffed the defence minister’s statements saying his remarks “do not reflect the official stance of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.
According to Saudi news outlets, a royal decree has replaced Khalid Bin Sultan with retired army general, Prince Fahd Bin Abdullah Bin Muhammad.
However, it is not clear whether the move is related to Sultan’s comments on the Nile water issue.