US President Donald Trump on Friday voiced anger at Ethiopia over its construction of a huge dam on the Nile River and appeared to suggest that Egypt may destroy it.
Trump made the remarks as he announced a breakthrough normalization 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 al-Sisi — had agreed to Cairo’s pleas to mediate over the dam, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin leading talks.
The State Department in September said 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.
Ethiopia says that the $4 billion project is indispensible 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.
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.