x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Nile water crisis requires cool heads

All the parties need to come to a fair arrangement when it comes to sharing a precious resource, an Arabic newspaper says. Other topics: Jordan and Palestine.

Nile water crisis pitting Egypt against Ethiopia requires cool heads, not belligerent rhetoric

"Screaming, wailing and tossing accusations around is not going to solve the Nile water issue. What can achieve that is a calm, rational examination of options to either prevent a reduction in Egypt's share of water supplies, or at least keep it to a strict minimum," wrote Ateyah Isawi, a contributor to the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram.

Ethiopia, an upstream nation from which a key Nile tributary that serves Egypt originates, has started the construction of its "Grand Renaissance Dam" to boost power production and water reserves. Egypt, which lies on the Nile's course into the Mediterranean, fears it will be severely affected by the project.

"Source nations were bound one day to build dams to produce the energy they need to help develop their populations and secure food," Isawi wrote.

The Egyptian government did the right thing when it stated that it had nothing against source nations launching development projects as long as they did not undermine Egypt's "historical rights" to Nile water.

"A calm, measured response from the Egyptian public and the government is the best way forward," the writer said. "There is no need for rumour-mongering in an attempt to embarrass the Ethiopian side by, for instance, alleging that an Israeli company has been assigned to operate the Renaissance Dam's water resources.

"Neither provocations to resort to military action and destroy the dam or arm the Ogaden and Omoros rebels are options worth pursuing."

Roughly, there as many people living in Ethiopia and Egypt, but nearly 70 per cent of Ethiopians are deprived of electricity, while 99 per cent of Egyptians have access to it.

Egypt has reasonable arguments to substantiate its right to a fair share of Nile water, the writer noted. First, there is no other river that runs through the country, which relies on the Nile for 96 per cent of its water needs.

Plus, there was a formal promise by the late Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, who died in office in 2012, that the design plans for the Renaissance Dam would be adjusted if there was any indication that it would hurt Egyptian interests.

Then, there is the Cooperative Framework Agreement, also known as the Entebbe agreement, which stipulates that no Nile Basin country is allowed to use water resources for irrigation or power generation at the expense of the interests of other nations.

By March, the Entebbe agreement had been signed by Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan - all upstream countries of the Nile Basin.

Though Egypt and Sudan have not signed, this document is "something we can build on" to find a mutually satisfactory solution, the Egyptian writer said.

Jordan in line of fire as Syrian regime sinks

A good measure of how regionally ominous the Syrian crisis has become is the situation Jordan is in today, wrote Tariq Al Homayed, a contributing editor with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"Jordan is being swamped by Syrian refugees who are weighing heavily on the nation's economy and security," he wrote yesterday.

On top of that, the border with Syria has become a hotbed for foreign militants backing the brutal regime of the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad.

"Jordan has to worry about all types of foxes and wolves roaming the border region, from [Iran's] Al Quds Force and Hizbollah to Iraq's Shiite militias. Iranian and Russian weapons are being handed out there under Tehran's supervision," the writer said.

Mr Al Assad has used bullying language against Jordan before, and just a couple of days ago, the writer said, Damascus threatened to recall its ambassador to Amman.

"Mr Al Assad will not leave without causing the most possible damage in Syria and the region, and Jordan is a big target … notably because Iran has always hassled Jordan, in attempts to either contain it or foment instability in it," the writer said.

Jordan is just one example of what Syria and Iran could do to wreak havoc in the region: they could also mobilise the Houthis in northern Yemen and the pro-Iran Shiite populations in Bahrain.

No news, six years after Battle of Gaza

It was June, 2007 when Palestinian national unity came undone, following bloody clashes in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Fatah, in what came to be known as the Battle of Gaza. It left scores dead and many more injured.

While regional factors that led to that clash have changed, the much-delayed reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is still waiting to happen, despite repeated promises from both sides that they are committed to it, the Dubai-based newspaper, Al Bayan, said in an editorial yesterday.

"Palestinian reconciliation, which was supposed to be proclaimed more than a year ago, is still frozen for no good reason, given that officials from both sides keep saying that all sticking points have been resolved," the newspaper said.

With the exception of the United Nations' recognition of Palestine as a "non-member observer state", Palestinian officials have nothing to show for the six years that have elapsed, Al Bayan added.

If anything, the acrimony between Hamas and Fatah has simply weakened the standing of the Palestinian cause, as regional and international observers have grown to doubt the seriousness of Palestinian leaders in taking their cause to the next stage.

Meanwhile, frustration and despair fester among the Palestinian people.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi