US president made the remarks as he announced normalisation deal between Israel and Sudan
US President Donald Trump voiced anger at Ethiopia over its construction of a huge dam on the Nile River and suggested Egypt may destroy it.
Trump made the remarks as he announced a normalisation deal between US ally Israel and Sudan, which like Egypt fears that Ethiopia will use up scarce water resources.
“It’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office with leaders of Sudan and Israel on speakerphone.
“They’ll end up blowing up the dam. And I said it and I say it loud and clear – they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something,” Trump said.
“They should have stopped it long before it started,” Trump said, regretting that Egypt was in domestic tumult when the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project began in 2011.
Trump – a close ally of Egypt’s general turned president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – had agreed to Cairo’s pleas to mediate over the dam, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin leading talks.
The State Department said in September that it was cutting off aid to Ethiopia due to its decision to begin filling the dam despite not reaching an agreement with the downstream nations.
“I had a deal done for them and then, unfortunately, Ethiopia broke the deal, which they should not have done. That was a big mistake,” Trump said.
“They will never see that money unless they adhere to that agreement,” he said.
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have been negotiating for nearly a decade to reach an agreement on outstanding issues related to the impact of the $4.6bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on their water security.
Ethiopia says the project is indispensable for its electrification and development needs and has voiced hope of beginning operations in early 2021.
Egypt depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water and is concerned that the filling of the dam will exacerbate a water shortage crisis in the event of a prolonged drought.
Sudan, Ethiopia’s northern neighbour, has concerns regarding the potential impact of the construction of the dam on its own dams, and for the safety of its population and farmland from flooding that could result from faults in the construction or operation of the GERD.
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok, asked by Trump on speakerphone about the dam, voiced appreciation for US diplomacy and said his government wanted an “amicable solution soon” among the three countries.
The speed of the filling of the dam will potentially have an immediate effect on Egypt.
If it takes five years to fill the dam, it will reduce Egypt’s water supply by 36 percent and destroy half of Egypt’s farmland, according to the Egyptian government.