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Saudi Arabia distances itself from criticism of Ethiopian dam

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

April 5, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - The Saudi Arabia government has made an official statement rebuffing recent remarks made by the kingdom’s deputy defense minister against the construction Ethiopia’s Grand renaissance dam.

Speaking at a session of the Arab Water Council held in Cairo late in February, Khalid Bin Sultan, accused the Horn of Africa nation of posing a national security threat to Sudan and Egypt by building the massive $4.8 billion hydro power dam, which is being built along the Blue Nile River near the Sudanese border.

The Saudi deputy defense minister then blasted Ethiopia’s power plant project saying it was intended “for political plotting rather than for economic gain and constitutes a threat to Egyptian and Sudanese national security".

The Ethiopian government reacted fiercely over the statements and summoned the Saudi Ambassador to Ethiopia seeking for an official explanation from the remarks.

Addis Ababa further said the hostile statements by the Saudi official could also negatively affect the existing diplomatic ties between Arabs and other Nile basin countries.

The Saudi Ambassador in Ethiopia responded by saying that Sultan’s views were not the policy of the government and on April 1 the Saudi foreign ministry echoed the this in a statement.

In the release Saudi, foreign minister, Ambassador Khalid bin Ibrahim Al Jandan, told a group of Ethiopian diplomats in Riyadh that the deputy defence minister’s statements “do not reflect the official stance of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.

He further underscored that - unlike media reports the recent statements made on the Nile dam project won’t affect the historic relations between the two countries which he said dates back to the First Hijira, when the Ethiopian monarchy gave refuge to the family of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers who faced persecution on the Saudi peninsular at the beginning of the seventh century.

The statement said that Saudi Arabia’s “relations with Ethiopia are based on mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs and work to promote common interests in the service of both governments and their peoples”.

Despite strong protests from downstream countries of Sudan and Egypt – who argued dam would reduce the flow of the water to their territories - Ethiopia launched construction on Africa’s biggest dam in March 2011.

An official from the ministry of water and energy told Sudan Tribune on Friday that 18% of the project has been completed.

The official further said the plans set to complete the dam in 2016 are well on track.

Currently some 5,000 Ethiopian and over 100 foreign employees are engaged in the construction of the dam which will have hydro power processed electricity generation power of 6000 MW.

(ST)

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