By Mohammed Awad /Bikyanews.com
ADDIS ABABA: Anger is fomenting in Ethiopia following last month’s statements from the Eritrean government over who has a right to Nile River water, which has become a contentious issue in recent years between Ethiopia and Egypt, who claims the lion’s share of water from the world’s largest waterway.
The Eritrean government said in April that it supported Egypt’s position over a controversial colonial-era treaty that grants Egypt a right a majority of the Nile’s water resources.
The Red Sea nation expressed its support in a message sent from the Eritrean president and delivered to Egypt’s president by Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs, Yemane Gebreab.
The Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, has highly welcomed Eritrea’s position towards Egypt’s “historic rights” over the sharing of the water of the Nile River.
Morsi said that he looks forward to meeting his Eritrean counterpart.
Here in Ethiopia, government officials told Bikyanews.com that the issue has led to increased tensions between the two neighbors, which have fought wars over territory.
“This is just not right and we demand the Eritrean government issue an apology and deliver what is Ethiopia’s to Ethiopia. The Nile River cannot be an issue that leads to violence,” a water official said, hinting that war over water in the region is on the rise.
The dam project has seen widespread concerns from Egypt and Sudan, who have echoed the Saudi official’s sentiments over the project, which they see as an infringement on their historical rights to Nile water.
The dam could threaten the regional stability after the Egyptian government said it remained “concerned” over Ethiopia’s actions along the Nile River.
The anger comes as Ethiopia and Eritrea both attempt to mend relations strained over the years.
Ethiopian government officials this week reaffirmed their commitment to have peace discussions with longtime foe and neighbor Eritrea with the aim of ending decades of tension along the border that has seen war and strife.
During his meeting with the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York, the Ethiopian Minister of foreign Affairs Tedros Adhanom accused the Eritrean government of refusing to engage in peace talks.
Adhanom said his country is ready to sit down for direct negotiations with Eritrea without any preconditions regarding to level, time or venue.
But the Ethiopian top diplomat stressed “the belligerent party opposed to these talks has always been the Eritrean side”.
According to the ministry of foreign Affairs, Tedros expressed solidarity with the people of Eritrea whom he said are continuously suffering due the regime’s “brutality and obstinacy to peace”.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a border war in 1998-2000 that has killed an estimated 70,000 people.
The two East African adversaries remain at loggerheads since the disputed key town of Badme had been awarded to Eritrea by an international border commission.
Government officials here in the Ethiopia capital told Bikyanews.com that they are “confident” that the situation will finally be resolved.
One foreign ministry spokesperson, who was not authorized to speak with the media, said that they hoped “the ongoing discussions between government officials would lead to a finality of the situation and help to build and mend the broken ties between the two countries.”
It is still unclear where the people fall in the ongoing negotiations, with many telling Bikyanews.com that they believe the time is now to end the tension along the border and start to build new economic relations.