Ethiopia denounces Donald Trump remark that Egypt could 'blow up' Nile dam

U.S. Ambassador to Addis Ababa Mike Raynor summoned for clarification on the comments which were described as an "incitement of war."
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia in a satellite image from May 28, 2020.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile river in Ethiopia, in a satellite image in May. Maxar Technologies via AP

CAIRO — Ethiopia on Saturday denounced "belligerent threats" over the huge hydropower dam it has nearly completed on the Blue Nile river, less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump said Egypt could "blow up" the project.

Trump made the comment while announcing that Sudan, which sits downstream from the dam, would start to normalize ties with Israel on Friday.

"They will end up blowing up the dam," Trump said, referring to Egypt. "And I said it and I say it loud and clear, they'll blow up that dam. And they have to do something."

The $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a source of national pride in Ethiopia, aimed at pulling millions of people out of poverty, but it has entangled neighboring east African nations Egypt and Sudan, which also rely on the river.

Without naming Trump or the United States, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office issued a blunt statement on Saturday, which said the east African nation would "not cave in to aggressions of any kind."

"These threats and affronts to Ethiopian sovereignty are misguided, unproductive, and clear violations of international law," the statement said.

It added: "As a developing nation, Ethiopia may be confronted with poverty but are rich with history, patriotic citizens whose commitment to defend their country's sovereignty is unparalleled and an ambition and a well-articulated plan for prosperity."

Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn tweeted on Saturday: "The man doesn't have a clue on what he is talking about," calling Trump's remarks "reckless" and "irresponsible."

Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Gedu Andargachew later summoned U.S. Ambassador to Addis Ababa Mike Raynor to seek clarifications on the comments.

"The incitement of war between Ethiopia and Egypt from a sitting U.S. president neither reflects the longstanding partnership and strategic alliance between Ethiopia and the United States nor is acceptable in international law governing interstate relations," Gedu's ministry said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Trump told the State Department to suspend millions of dollars in aid to Ethiopia because of the dispute over the dam. A move that angered Ethiopians.

"They will never see that money unless they adhere to that agreement," Trump said Friday.

Ethiopia says the colossal dam project could help it become a major power exporter and develop its economy. Egypt depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and population of 100 million with fresh water while Sudan contends with frequent droughts.

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The country celebrated the first filling of the dam in August, to the dismay of Egypt.

There was no comment from the Egyptian government on Trump's latest remarks.

Egypt has repeatedly said it wants to settle the dam dispute through diplomatic channels, but has also said it would use "all available means" to defend the interests of its people.

The Blue Nile joins the White Nile in Sudan to become the Nile, and about 85 percent of the river's flow originates from Ethiopia. Officials in Ethiopia hope the dam, now more than three-quarters complete, will reach full power-generating capacity by 2023.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Charlene Gubash reported from Cairo and Henry Austin from London.