BY AL-MASRY AL-YOUM *
The Eritrean Ambassador in Cairo, Fasil Gebreselasie Takla, said that the relations between Egypt and Eritrea have been in good shape since the time of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser and that they are strategic and historical relations.
He pointed out that the common factor between Nasser and Sisi lies in their sincere orientation towards Africa, but there are differences in political circumstances and data in the region between the era of the two presidents.
In his interview with «Al-Masry Al-Youm», he added that the construction of the Renaissance dam has no positive purposes in the interest of the Ethiopian people, and that the decision to build it was political and not an economic decision, and that Ethiopia has a “phobia” of Eritrea’s relationship with any other country, not just Egypt.
In addition to the fact that the Ethiopian regime wants to distract the people from its economic and political problems, and the idea of an external enemy is exported to them. He pointed out that some Western and Gulf countries are behind Ethiopia in an attempt to “subdue Egypt”
To the text of the dialogue:
■ How do you see the relations between Egypt and Eritrea?
The relations between the two countries have been in good shape since the time of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser. They are deep strategic and historical relations. Egypt has helped Eritrea during the armed struggle movement for independence, provided us with arms, financial and political support, helped our college and university students and established a home for them.
■ You spoke about Egypt’s assistance to Eritrea under Nasser. What about the relations between the two countries under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi?
The common factor between Nasser and al-Sisi is that they have an honest approach to Africa, but there are differences in the political circumstances and conditions in the region between the era of the two presidents. during the reign of Abdel Nasser, the revolutionary tide, liberation movements and pan-Arab nationalism were the situation on the African continent, but at the time the future among the peoples is the economic exchange projects, and I believe that it is the economic relations that guarantee the survival of the relations between countries, unlike political relations that can be negatively affected at any moment.
Al-Sisi is also sincere in implementation of the agreed economic projects and development plans, and his visit to Africa is not for media propaganda. In the era of Sadat and Mubarak, Egypt did not undertake a single economic project in Eritrea.
■ How do you read the Renaissance Dam crisis?
Eritrea has officially declared that the construction of the Renaissance Dam has no positive purpose in the interest of the Ethiopian people. The decision to build it is a political rather than an economic decision. We are not against any development project in any African country, but the dam is not for development purpose.
■ What is the real purpose behind this “political goal”?
Ethiopia relies mainly dependent on economic aid. It is the most African country that receives economic assistance from the United States, the European Union and the World Bank. It is a country that has famine and requests assistance from the UN to feed its people. Some countries are helping them to finance the construction of the dam.
■ What are those countries?
Any country that wants to fight Egypt will not resort to a direct military solution. This method no longer exists on the ground. So the last card in that war with Egypt is by “snatching of Egypt” because if there is no Nile, there is no Egypt.
■ Did you mean that Ethiopia wants to subdue Egypt?
Not only Ethiopia, but some Western and Gulf countries stand behind Ethiopia and support the construction of the Renaissance dam, especially since the area where the Renaissance dam located is not suitable for agriculture.
Here I want to return to the history of the Renaissance, in 1993, when Eritrea attended its first official representation as an independent state, one of the African conferences in Cairo, also attending was the then Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi. Relations between our two countries were excellent at the time, and here Zenawi put together an idea, as the Arabs sell oil to us, we sell water to all of the countries. The Eritrean President vehemently rejected this proposition and here was the response of the late General Omar Suleiman, the former head of Intelligence. He told Zenawi: “who are you to say this?”
■ What is your position on the Entebbe Agreement?
Null and void, in accordance with previous international treaties relating to the Nile Basin countries.
■ Some political analysts said that Eritrea is the best card to put pressure on Ethiopia because of the old war between them and deepening of relations between Eritrea and Egypt has signs and messages that will quickly reach Ethiopia. What is your response?
Ethiopia has a “phobia” of Eritrea’s relationship with any other country, not just with Egypt. In addition, the Ethiopian regime desire to distract the people from its economic and political crisis, and the idea of an external enemy is exported to them.
To name but a few, Ethiopia has benefited greatly from the meeting that was held by former President Mohamed Morsi to discuss the dam crisis with the national forces, to amplify this idea with the Ethiopian people. The more Eritrea work to consolidate its relationship with Egypt, we will find Ethiopia accusing us that we are helping Egypt to target the dam militarily through our territory.
In fact, Egypt does not want to target the dam militarily at all, and it has no political gains in that matter, as all African countries will not allow it, nor will we allow the use of our territories to achieve those goals. Despite our differences with Ethiopia, we always affirm to Egypt that it is Egypt’s political right to establish strategic relations with any country that it wants, even with Ethiopia, and we have nothing to do with it.
■ What is your response to some media reports published in a number of foreign newspapers that Egypt has [secured] Eritrea’s consent to establish a military naval base?
Not everything that is published in newspapers are true, some news are “test balloons”, others are leaked in favour to some Western intelligence services.
Our main disagreement with America, for instance, was Eritrea’s refusal to establish a U.S. military base on its soil. If we agreed to this offer, we could have avoided many wars and international pressures on us, and our country makes no political concessions to any country whatever our relationship is.
The Eritrean government wants to return of the Egyptian role in Africa, not for personal interests, but for Egypt’s own first. So if we look at the Suez Canal, we will find that its security and the security of the global trade movement starts from the south, a large part of the victory of the October 6 war was the role played by the Egyptian naval forces in maintaining the security of the south, it is time to highlight the role of the Egyptian and the emergence of more than that in that region.
■ What do you mean by “highlighting the role of Egypt” in the South region?
American military battleships roam the world to deliver a clear message that they are permanently present in the scene, and Egypt now possesses modern and sophisticated military battleships, and I think it’s time.
■ What caused the differences with Ethiopia?
In the 1990s, the Eritrean people wanted independence, and we submitted a request to the United Nations, headed by the late Dr. Boutros-Ghali, at that time to conduct referendum on independence and secession from Ethiopia, America has rejected the idea of a popular referendum on this requirement, but we have adhered to our demand for another Moment the United States of America and the United Nations agreed, and the referendum was held, with a score of 99.9% in favour of independence from Ethiopia.
In 1993, the State of Eritrea was officially proclaimed and we begun to strengthen our foreign relations with the rest of the countries. This is where the U.S. began to set its conditions on us, to return the American military base to our country once again, in addition to providing some facilities in the waters of the Red Sea. We rejected those demands in full, because we do not overstate the freedom of our political decision and the sovereignty of our territory.
Moreover, Eritrea was the only country that officially condemned the US invasion of Somalia. The League of Arab States did not issue a statement condemning this invasion, even Mubarak once said, “We understand” and the invasion has not been condemned either. This is the greatest indication that the political decision at the time was not in Egypt’s hands.
All these reasons prompted Ethiopia to create a conflict with our country and have occupied a border area called “Badme” with the aim of giving a harsh lesson to us, and to achieve many Ethiopian and American interests in the region.
the Algiers Summit was held, and it was the U.S. that wrote the boundary demarcation agreement between us and Ethiopia, A to Z, and the three most important pillars of the agreement are that the boundary dispute is the responsibility of the International Court of Justice, the decision of the Court is binding and final to the parties, any country that refuses to implement the resolution shall be a subject of a number of international sanctions.
The purpose of those points was to get to Eritrea, because the U.S. was expecting a the verdict will be issued in favor of Ethiopia. Contrary to the expectations of the United States, the court ruled that the occupied territories are Eritrean territory and that it is imperative Ethiopia must withdraw from them.
The border has been demarcated in its new form, but Ethiopia has refused to withdraw and implement the court’s decision, and since then the differences are pending among us. The resolution to the crisis is therefore in the hands of the Americans. The U.S. is the only country capable of getting Ethiopia out of our territory.
* Software translation from Arabic