Amid Strained Relations with Egypt, Saudi Official Visited Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Renaissance Dam
Advisor to the Royal court of Saudi Arabia, Ahmed al-Khatib, made an unscheduled visit to the controversial Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Egypt considered the visit as a dangerous move intended to harm the interest of 92 million Egyptians. (Photo: Ethiopian Foreign Ministry)

By Middle East Observer,

Media sources said that Ahmed Al-Khatib, the adviser of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, has paid a visit to the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam within the framework of his current presence in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to find out the possibility of renewable energy generation.

The Ethiopian source, that accompanied the Saudi official to the dam, said that Al-Khatib, who arrived in Addis Ababa Friday, visited the dam on the same day, and was received by the project manager Semegnew Bekele.

The visit agenda of Al-Khatib and his accompanying delegation was undeclared, especially concerning the Renaissance Dam, which was not also mentioned by the Saudi Press Agency.

According to the official Ethiopian television, the adviser to the Saudi monarch, met yesterday, with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

The Ethiopian TV pointed out that during the meeting, it was agreed to form a joint committee for cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy.

For his part, Desalegn called Saudi Arabia to support the project financially and to invest in Ethiopia, according to the Ethiopian television itself.

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia emphasized his country’s desire to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in the fields of energy, roads, electricity, agriculture, as well as cooperation in the field of tourism.

For his part, Al-Khatib said that Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia said they had enormous potentials that will enable the two countries to work together for promoting and strengthening their economic and diplomatic ties.

Al-Khatib also held consultations with the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs and pointed out that Saudi investors desire to work in Ethiopia in various investment fields.

Al-Khatib’s visit to Ethiopia is the second by Saudi officials within days, where Saudi Minister of Agriculture Abdul Rahman bin Abdul Mohsen al-Fadhli visited Ethiopia last week.

In 1948 diplomatic relations between the two countries began at the Chargé d’affaires level, and in 1994, diplomatic representation was upgraded to the rank of ambassador.

A Saudi High-Level delegation led by H.E Mr. Ahmed Alkhateeb, the senior advisor at the Royal Court of the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Board Chairman of the Saudi Development Fund visited Ethiopia from December 14-16, 2016. (Photo: Ethiopian Foreign Ministry)

Saudi-Egyptian Relations Strained

Saudi Arabia was a major supporter of the military-backed regime in Egypt following the 2013 coup against Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president, and has channeled billions of dollars in support of Egypt’s economy.

However, since Egypt’s vote on the Russian-backed draft resolution in the United Nations security council, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have started a cold war on media platforms. Egyptian officials, however, are denying any political disagreement between the two countries.

Egypt’s vote on October 8 to support a Russian Security Council resolution on Aleppo has exposed an unprecedented rift between Egypt and its strongest Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. The vote triggered the first public condemnation by the Saudis of the Egyptian regime, which they helped bring to power three years ago. The Saudi criticism also coincided with cutting monthly discounted oil shipments to Egypt, a much-needed support for the country’s deteriorating economy.

A few days later, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told military leaders that the cutting of the oil supply was only a commercial matter. However, he warned Egyptians that “fully independent decision-making, independent states endure a lot. What is happening is an attempt to pressure Egypt. Egypt will only kneel to God.

The timing of the rising tension, after the UN Security Council vote on Aleppo, may give a misleading impression that the core disagreement between the two allies is about Syria. However, a more careful look at Egypt’s foreign policy under Sisi shows that the divide between the two countries is much larger.

Saudi Arabia might have hoped the new Egyptian regime under Sisi would join Riyadh in its prolonged conflict with Iran.

Before taking office and during his first few months in power, Sisi hailed the Saudi and Gulf support to his regime and promised a grateful Egypt, ready to send troops to defend the Gulf nations as fast as “the trip between Egypt and the Gulf takes”.

Yet, Al-Sisi’s sweet talk never materialized into tangible support. Eight months after taking office, Al-Sisi told his military leaders that “Egypt’s military is for Egypt only and not for anyone else”. Al-Sisi also reflected in his speeches and foreign policy a very different vision from that adopted by the Saudis.

Instead of rallying behind Saudi Arabia in its conflict with Iran, Sisi adopted a vision of Egyptian foreign policy designed to protect his regime, maximise its freedom of movement, and diversify its sources of foreign support -even if such goals contradicted with Saudi and Gulf interests and led him to reach out to the Saudis’ main regional rivals, including Iran itself.

The High-Level Saudi delegation met with H.E Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, Foreign Minster Dr. Workenh Gebeyehu and five other Ministers on December 15, 2016. (Photo: Ethiopian Foreign Ministry)

Egypt Sought to Impede Building a Saudi Military Base in Djibouti

Egyptian diplomatic sources revealed that Cairo started almost a month ago moves to stop the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Djibouti to build a Saudi military base at the entrances of the Gulf of Aden.

Cairo completely rejects this agreement based on the facts that these areas lie in what is considered ‘Egyptian diplomatic influence’, and fall within Egypt’s national security zone as an Egyptian strategic depth in the far south, according to sources.

The sources said, “Egypt is worried about a Saudi-Moroccan expansion toward this particular region, particularly after King of Morocco Mohammed VI tour in a number of countries last month, notably Ethiopia which came in parallel with Saudi contacts with Djibouti to establish the Saudi military base on its territory.

The sources said, “Egypt is worried about a Saudi-Moroccan expansion toward this particular region, particularly after King of Morocco Mohammed VI tour in a number of countries last month, notably Ethiopia which came in parallel with Saudi contacts with Djibouti to establish the Saudi military base on its territory.

The sources added that the Egyptian political leadership understands the Saudi move because of Djibouti’s strategic location on the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aden, which comes to increase the pressure cards in the light of the conflict with Iran, particularly in the war led by Riyadh against the Houthis in Yemen.

However, the source continued, this move contradicts the common rules and norms pervading among the Arab countries that those areas lie within the Egyptian diplomatic and strategic influence zones because of its direct impact on the water issue, the Nile Basin and the Suez Canal corridor.

The sources pointed out that if Saudi Arabia wanted to secure these areas and ensure that it won’t fall under the Iranian control, there is a quite understanding from Egypt of this issue, but it must be made with Egypt’s participation, presence, and supervision.

Mediation Efforts Between Saudi Arabia and Egypt

There were several mediating attempts for reaching a reconciliation between the two countries, but there are no indications for their success so far.

During his latest visit to the UAE, King Salman arrived hours after the departure of Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

The Egyptian media platforms expected before Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi traveled to the UAE that there would be a summit organized by the UAE between King Salman and Al-Sisi to put an end to the differences between the two sides, which, to their disappointment, did not happen.

Accordingly, it seems that the Saudi side is sticking to its position, especially after Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has recently announced his support to Bashar Al Assad’s army in the Syrian conflict in his interview during his official visit to Portugal.

It also seems that Egypt’s movement to stop the establishment of a Saudi military base in Djibouti will intensify the tension between the two countries.

On the other side, Djibouti Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssef said that his country welcomed a Saudi military presence on its territory, adding that, “An exploratory visit was held by Saudi military officers to some areas in Djibouti that will host the Saudi military presence.”

He said, “Of course we agreed in principle, and we expect that we will sign this agreement in the near future.”

Djibouti foreign minister also stressed that “Djibouti felt from the beginning that cooperation with Iran would lead to much confusion , so we withdrew gradually.”

He added, “Once the attack on Yemen’s legitimacy and the Arab interests occurred, Djibouti decided to sever its relations with Tehran.”

Countries around the world race to establish military bases in Djibouti, because of its strategic geographical location as it lies on the western coast of Bab el-Mandeb Strait, linking the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.

In this context, both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and China sought to enter the race in Djibouti which hosts bases for the United States of America, France, Italy, and Japan.

Renting military bases is considered one of the most important sources of revenues for Djibouti as it gains almost $ 160 million a year.

Saudi Arabia has been steadily improving its relations with African countries. One of its major recent achievements was the improving of relations with Sudan, one of the continent’s largest countries, that was for a long time an Iranian ally.

39 thoughts on “Amid Strained Relations with Egypt, Saudi Official Visited Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

  1. New foreign minister of Ethiopia, Workneh Gebeyehu, posted the following on his Facebook page

    A High Level Saudi Arabian Delegation visits GERD
    A Saudi High-Level delegation led by H.E Mr. Ahmed Alkhateeb, the senior advisor at the Royal Court of the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Board Chairman of the Saudi Development Fund visited Ethiopia from December 14-16, 2016.

    The High-Level Saudi delegation met with H.E Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, Foreign Minster Dr. Workenh Gebeyehu and five other Ministers on December 15, 2016.

    The purpose of the visit is to explore the potentials of Ethiopia in the energy sector and to discuss on how to cooperate on the development of renewable energy. The delegation expressed the interest of the Government of Saudi Arabia to develop and import energy from Ethiopia to Saudi Arabia.

    The Delegation also visited the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam and discussed with Chief Engineer Simegnew Bekele,General Manager of the Project on the status of the construction.

    The High-level Saudi delegation was composed of energy, finance and the industry sectors officials.The delegation concluded its visit and returned to Saudi Arabia this evening (December 16,2016).


    Ethiopia, Saudi agree to establish joint committee to cooperate in energy sector

    (EBC) – Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia have agreed to establish a joint committee that enables them to cooperate in the energy sector.

    Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn conferred on Thursday with a delegation led by Ahmed Alkhateeb, Senior Advisor at the Royal Court in the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

    The two officials discussed about issues regarding the cementing of the relations between the two countries.

    During the discussion the two sides reached agreement to establish a joint committee that enables them to cooperate in the energy sector, it was indicated.

    1. ኣየ፡ኢተዮጰያ፡የምትበላው ፡የላት፡የምትለበሰው፡አማራት። Ethiopia’s starving to death and running around to sale the Energy from unfinished dam project Energy .Stick around the Ethiopia Dam Jock.

  3. for your information

    Tomorrow is Monday December 19, 2016. It’s a day of mass civil disobedience through out SUDAN. It is expected to be one of the largest and probably the deadliest protest in Sudan’s history. It is believed to be Sudan’s turn for the Arab Spring. Let’s hope President Al-Bashir survive from it.

  4. Who would forget woyane’s fanfare during the formation of the so-called ‘Sanaa Coalition’ suposedly to encircle and isolate Eritrea? We all know how that ended.

    The fact remains the Mekelle illiterates never had a comprehensive foreign policy based on principles. Their flip-flop nature that is predicated on simplistic approaches to very complex issues is the manifestation of that deficiency and we know how it would end….

    God Have Mercy on Ethiopia!

    1. What’s even hilarious is that the TPLF FM statement: Saudi Arabia “expressed interest” to “import energy from Ethiopia.”

  5. This can get little nasty. Only viable answer for majority Ethiopians is for involve massive recruitment of rebels to undertake underground or peer to peer. EPLF has done this successfully off-line and so can the struggle of the Ethiopian people. The issue Ethiopia is inviting into the country could spill to a major civil war that would take decades to repair.

    The only major difference maker in this situation is Sudan. There is a possibility that Egypt might disrupt and create political turmoil in Sudan that Egypt can take advantage off.

    Eritrea just needs to focus on keeping an eye on Assab port and near facilities for movements.

    1. President Al-Bashir, with all his weaknesses and challenges, is crucial for the stability of this region as the alternative is the coming to power of the so called extreme Islamist groups such as Al-Turabi, Mahadi and co. A stable Sudan is definitely in the interest of Egypt as it is for Ethiopia and Eritrea too but recent differences with Egypt on the issue of the Nile and border claims by AL-Bashir may opt for Egypt to seek a post Al-Bashir Sudan.

      Again a lawless Sudan may serve Egypt to destabilize Ethiopia by propping up the rebels as Sudan is pretty convenient for most Ethiopian rebels to re-group and stage gorilla warfare in the northern part of Ethiopia, at will. Equally, chaotic or ungoverned Sudan could become a fertile ground for Eritrean Islamist groups and armed opponents to infiltrate the eastern part of Eritrea.

      It’s, therefore, my belief (forgive me if I am wrong) that both Ethiopia and Eritrea may not sit and watch idle until that scenario happen.

      1. Under normal circumstances, the Adwa goons would have viewed this as a bonanza to extort more money from their masters as a reward for their killing spree in the name of stabilizing the region. The Mekelle illiterates are in no position to open up another front at this time though. As it’s, they’ve been overstretched militarily on all directions…..They’ve been even forced to withdraw most of their military from their cash-cow- Somalia.

        But if my thought-processor were hijacked by Sentek’s IQ 63, I would have said Sudan’s instability would reinforce the recent narrative that Eritrea is the only STABLE nation in a region where leadership sanity has become a short commodity…..

        God Have Mercy On Ethiopia!

        1. MammoQilo shaebya will not dare to do so…..if it is a must adwa will came to asmara ..this time not for negotiation…nay….to send shaebya to sahil for another 30 years.
          some times i think MammoQilo is from anseba or hamasien.

          1. you guys will end up of being BANDA for ever…try what you did befor 100 years …weldemichael,bahta,weldemichael’s son in low..the gofar….adwa battle…..and then prepare for the consequences of it to come yet.

      2. TN soudi will be there two……this time Sudan may get back some land …from Egypt. and ethiopia will be there for the Sudan people. eritrea will of course be there for Egypt…their master.

  6. I wish Meles was here to witness this, who would have thought five months before the completion of GERD, the evil kingdom would fold to cooperate with us and not Egypt? Cheap electricity to the horn Arabs and sign one good agreement for Riyals before they kiss and makeup next month. While Egypt playing catchup going around the basin countries, extending the SoE is a must till we finish. May God help Sudan keep Bashir, Somalia overcome the election,Yemen find peace and Ethiopia will bring the horn out of darkness, Axum is back. Stay tuned.

    1. ኣታዮ ኣይተብሽቑኒ በይዛኻትኩም ውይውይ! ኣይተሳትውሱታን ደኣ ኰንኩምምበይ፡ “ኣይተ ጬርቆስ ኪሮስ ገብረኣናንያ ክደብረዳሞ” ዶኾኑይ ልባዕሎም! “ኣምነ ኣረጋዊ ክላዕላይ ኣድያቦ ይግደለኝ እማነይ እየ ልጸውየኩም እኔኹ”!

        1. That’s just a temporary setback for a major comeback (aka offensive) to free Eritrean land and in the process we will enable major movement of rebels to overthrow the minority tigrai bandit regime. The alarm will soon ring loud and sending distress signs all the way to Monument at Mek’ele.

  7. TN,

    Why doesn’t Egypt fund a study the natural red sea dam in Eritrea. The evidence is there. We need Egypt blessing because they control the northern Ssuez canal entrance of the red sea and we should gain the energy benefit of the red sea for our cause of The evidence that shows it’s advantages is there. The topography of Danakil Depression in Eritrea, sloping down red sea coast to back to Kalul 400 feet below Sea level. the potential for power generation can skyrocket to 25,000 MW exploitable hydro-power energy source coming directly from a natural flow of water back to the sea.

    Believe me, future Ethiopia post-woyane will need to exploit this energy resource because of the potash on both sides of our countries and Tio port (middle between Massawa-Assab) will be the center of economic partnership between the two countries and building a natural dam will be beneficial even for Djibouti.

    The concept of Eritrea having it’s own Grand Dam with a fraction of the cost and dam building experience all over the country can DO THIS. China/Russia has promised 5 dam generators for 10 years flexible lease until (not officially – yet)

    Red Sea: The Natural Dam of Eritrea

    1. With all the money they have, the Sauds, Kuwaits and Emirates would have dammed the sea to generate electricity. It’s a pie in the sky brother. Just stick with the other alternative and reliable energy sources: geothermal, solar and wind.

    2. dud you don’t know about geoloy……and nature of water.constructing dam is not like building fort..sorry. sorry there is such course in sawa..aye ande.

  8. Such unpredictable move by saudi arabia is not strategoc but tactical to scare egypt.this is simply a revenge by saudi to egypt for not handing over the islands of afrin and senafir plus for their suport to syria’s asad.for ethiopia this is a remarkable diplomatic victory specially at such a difficult time, the governement is facing its greatest challenge from the internal unrest since its inception before 25 years and it is struggling to change the international image that increases investors confidence and boosts tourism and normalize the situation in ethiopia.but we have to mind that the saudis seemed to underestimate how every egyption will get irritate and support the egyptian government to be more confrontational on handling the GERD issue instead of solving the differences through consultations and increasing alliances with iran to incircle saudi arabia.we have to understand that egypt-iran alliances can simply shake the saudi royal by arming advanced misiles for the yemenis huthis on the southern border and destroy targets in the country specially the oil firms infrastructure.apart from that they can motivate the shietes in the country to push forward for their rights that can presure the house of the saud.
    In conclusion, the saudis strategy is misguided at many levels and is drowing the region in to unnecessary alliances that can make stable for the current instability in east africa and the middle east.

  9. Ethiopian source said the Qatari foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman, will arrive in the capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday evening December 19 / December, on his first visit since his appointment in January 2015.

    It is worth mentioning that the former emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, made a visit to Addis Ababa in April / April 2013, was the first Qatari to Ethiopia for a leader since the resumption of relations between the two countries in October / October 2012, after the visit paid by the Minister of Foreign Affairs former Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim.

    It agreed Ethiopia, Qatar and then to resume full diplomatic relations after more than four years of estrangement pursued by the government of Addis Ababa, claiming that the Doha “pursuing a policy hostile” to her, against the backdrop of retaining Qatar had good relations with Eritrea, which it accuses the Ethiopian government of backing the anti with armed groups. Qatar, which was considered “allegations and claims have no basis in truth.”

    Source:RT arabic

    It seems Qatar is trying to change its policy on horn of Africa by siding with Ethiopia

    1. LOL, that’s a good observation. The thing is both are the same – they think they can solve their problem through temporary alliances.

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