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Eritrean Ambassador: The USA and Gulf States Want to “Make Egypt Thirsty”

(Archive of September 18, 2017. 13:55 Editor)

On Thursday, September 7, 2017, Al Masri Al Youm published an interview it conducted with the Eritrean ruling party ambassador in Cairo. Here we present the English version of the Arabic original, which was translated by the Awatestaff.

The Ambassador says, “some Gulf States” but given the context of the present crisis in the Arab Gulf, it is no secret he is accusing Qatar, in collaboration with the USA, is trying to make Egypt go thirsty by choking the flow of the Nile River to Egypt. Qatar used to be the main supporter of the Eritrean regime until the current Arab Gulf crisis when it betrayed Qatar.

In 2010, we have translated another interview Fasil gave to the same Al Masri Al Youm, where he made an outrageous statement telling his interviewer that, “the Egyptian security authorities who warn the Eritreans when they try to flee across their borders, something that pushes them to direct their fires to them if they do not heed to their warnings, with the aim of securing and protecting their borders.” Thus stating, that the Egyptian security forces have the right to shoot refugees crossing through the border.

That was his response to an incident where a few Eritrean refugees were shot by Egyptian security forces while crossing the Sinai desert into Israel which used to be a major escape route for Eritrean refugees. Hundreds of them fell in the hands of human traffickers—some were released after paying huge amounts of ransom while others had their human organs harvested by the criminals who roamed the Sinai desert. Many refugees managed to cross to Israel and many others have died in the desert.

The following is the recent interview, which was conducted by Samer Ibrahim for AlMasri Al Youm.

The Eritrean Ambassador to Cairo, Fasil Gebreselassie Tekhla, said that the relations between Egypt and Eritrea is strategic and historical and has been in good shape since the era of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser. he pointed out that the common factor between Abdel Nasser and Abdulfatah Al Sisi lies in their sincere orientation towards Africa. But there are differences in the political conditions and factors 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 “Ethiopian Renaissance Dam” has no positive purposes in the interest of the Ethiopian people and that the decision to build it is political and not an economic decision. Ethiopia has a “Phobia” of Eritrea’s relationship with any other country, not only with Egypt. In addition, the Ethiopian regime wants to distract the people from [focusing] on their economic and political problems, and the idea of an external enemy is spread to them. He noted that some Western and Gulf countries are behind Ethiopia’s attempt to “make Egypt Thirsty” through the “construction of the Renaissance Dam. The full interview follows:

■ How do you see the relations between Egypt and Eritrea?

The relations between the two countries are in good shape, since the time of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser. They are deep strategic and historical relations. Egypt has helped Eritrea in the time of its armed struggle to gain independence, and it provided us with arms, financial, and political support. It also helped our students and established a home for them. And it opened its colleges and universities for them.

■ You talked about Egypt’s support to Eritrea during the era of President Abdel 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 towards Africa, but there are differences in the political conditions and factors in the region between the eras of the two presidents. During the era of Nasser, the revolutionary tide, liberation movements and pan-Arab nationalism prevailed in the African continent. But presently, the future lies in economic exchange projects between peoples. And I believe that economic relations are what guarantees of the survival of the relations between countries, unlike political relations that can be negatively affected at any moment.

Al Sisi is also sincere in implementing the economic projects and development plans that are agreed upon. And his {recent] visit to Africa is not “a media show”. During the reign of Al Sadat and Mubarak, Egypt did not undertake a single economic project in Eritrea.

■ How do you see 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 decision and not economic. We are not against any development project in any African country, but the dam is not for a developmental purpose.

■ What is the real purpose behind this “political goal”?

Ethiopia is mainly dependent on economic aid. It is the main African country that receives the most economic assistance from the United States, the European Union, and the World Bank. It is a country that has a “famine” and asks for assistance from the United Nations to feed its people. There are some countries that help it to finance the construction of the dam.

■ Who are these 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 is to “make Egypt Thirsty.”

■Do you mean that Ethiopia wants to “make Egypt Thirsty”?

Not only Ethiopia, but some Western and [Arab] Gulf countries stand behind Ethiopia and support the construction of the Renaissance Dam. Particularly since the area where the Renaissance dam is located is not suitable for agriculture.

Here I would like to go back in history.

In 1993, in its first official representation as an independent state, Eritrea attended in one of the African conferences in Cairo, where the then Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was present. At the time, the relation between the two countries was excellent. And here Zenawi presented an idea: Just like the Arabs sell oil to us, we sell water to all countries. The Eritrean president strongly rejected the proposal, and here, the late General Omar Suleiman, the former head of the General Intelligence responded to him. He said to Zenawi: “And who are you to say that?”

■What is your position on the Entebbe Agreement?

Void, in accordance with previous international treaties relating to the Nile Basin countries.

■ Some political analysts said that Eritrea is the best party to exert pressure on Ethiopia because of the old war between them, and deepening relations between [Eritrea] and Egypt carries signals and messages that will quickly reach Ethiopia. What are your views?

Ethiopia has a “Phobia” of Eritrea’s relationship with any other country, not just Egypt. In addition, the Ethiopian regime wants to distract the people from [focusing] on their economic and political problems. The idea of an external enemy is spread to them. As an example, Ethiopia benefited a lot internally from the meeting that the former President Mohamed Morsi held with the national forces to discuss the crisis of the dam, to amplify the idea among the Ethiopian people. The more Eritrea works to strengthen its relationship with Egypt, Ethiopia accuses us that we will help Egypt to target the dam militarily through our territory. This is not a talk of nations, but “child play”.

In fact, Egypt does not want to target the dam militarily, at all. And it has no political gains in this matter. All African countries will not allow that, nor will we allow the use of our territories to achieve those goals. Despite the differences between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Egypt is free to establish strategic relations with any country of its choice, even with Ethiopia, because that is a political right of Egypt, and we have nothing to do with it.

■ What are your views regarding some media reports that were published in a number of foreign newspapers that Egypt has snatched Eritrea’s consent to establish a military naval base in its land?

Not everything that is published in newspapers is true. There is some news that is a mere “testing balloons”, and others are leaked on behalf of some Western intelligence services.

Our main disagreement with America is Eritrea’s refusal to establish a military base on its soil. If we had agreed to that request, we could have avoided many wars and international pressures on us. Our country does not make political concessions to any country, whatever type of relationship we have with them.

The Eritrean regime wants the Egyptian role to return again in Africa, not for our personal interests, but first for the interest of Egypt. If we look at the Suez Canal, we find that its security and the security of the global trade movement starts from the South [of the Red Sea]. A large part of the victory of the war of October 6 [1973 war over Sinai] is because of the important role played by the Egyptian naval forces in maintaining the security of the South [mouth of the Red Sea]. It is high time to highlight the role of Egypt and its emergence more than it is in the region.

■ What do you mean by “highlighting the Egyptian role” in the South?

American military battleships roam the world to convey a clear message that they are permanently present in the scene, and now Egypt owns modern and sophisticated military battleships, and I think its time has come.

■ What caused [Eritrea’s] differences with Ethiopia?

In the 1990s, the Eritrean people wanted independence. We submitted a request to the United Nations under the chairmanship of the late Dr. Boutros Ghali at the time, to hold a popular referendum on [Eritrea’s] independence and separation from Ethiopia. America refused to the holding of a referendum, [refused] the demand. But we held to our demand to the last moment and the United Nations and the United Nations agreed. The referendum was held and resulted in a 99.9% vote in favor of independence from Ethiopia.

In 1993, the state of Eritrea was officially declared a state and we started to strengthen our foreign relations with the rest of the world countries. And here America began to set its conditions for us to return the American military base to our country again, in addition to providing some facilities in the Red Sea waters. We totally rejected the demands because we do not give up our right to decide freely, and our the sovereignty of our territories. Moreover, Eritrea is the only country that officially condemned the US invasion of Somalia. The League of Arab States did not issue a statement condemning that invasion. Even Mubarak said, “We understand” and he didn’t condemn the invasion. This is the biggest proof 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 occupied a border area called “Badme” to give us a harsh lesson, and to achieve many Ethiopian and American gains in the region. Following these events, the summit of Algeria was held, and America is the one who drafted the border demarcation agreement between Ethiopia and {Eritrea] from A to Z. And the three most important points of the agreement  that the border dispute is the responsibility of the International Court of Justice, and that the decision of the Court is final and binding to the parties, and any country that refuses to implement the resolution will face a number of international sanctions on it. The purpose of those points was to cripple Eritrea, because America was expecting the judgment would be issued in favor of Ethiopia. But contrary to the American expectations, the court ruled that the occupied territories are Eritrean territories and Ethiopia must withdraw from them. The border was demarcated in its new form, but Ethiopia refused to withdraw and implement the court’s decision. And since that time, the crisis is still pending between us because the solution is in the hands of America, which is the only country capable of getting Ethiopia out of our country.

Related Reading
Eritrean Refugees: Kidnapped, Tortured In Egyptian Sinai (Dec. 9, 2010)
President Isaias Embarrasses Qatar One More Time (Nov. 26, 2014)

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  • Rule of Law

    Selam All,
    What is the purpose of recycling an old interview? Perhaps if this undated interview was really made “recently,” I stand corrected. Nevertheless, given the currently thawed diplomatic activities between the two countries, It’s highly unlikely that ambassador Fassil could’ve made such a damaging statement and get away with it.

  • Simon Kaleab

    The Ambassador said: “A large part of the victory of the war of October 6 [1973 war over
    Sinai] is because of the important role played by the Egyptian naval
    forces in maintaining the security of the South [mouth of the Red Sea].”

    So, defeat is victory. I thought Egypt’s backside was kicked black and blue by General Sharon in that war.

    The Ambassador is a typical reflection of the sycophant behaviour of the Eritrean leadership.

  • Hayat Adem

    Dear Friends,
    You know there have been tones of exchanges between me and Mahmuday, over many subjects. All of them were done civilly but vigorously. Many of them were divergent and only a few convergent. His window to reasoning based on facts and logic is only the season of spring. I had to always wait for the cycle of a season to see eye to eye with him. On the rest part of the year, he is full of Sahil and Schul (dogmatic affiliation). We discussed TPLF and PFDJ, we discussed border, and we discussed Eri-Ethiopian relationship. I once remember, we even discussed wedi tiKhul, Zawiyay, Zemach etc. But, mostly, I guess we discussed Badime. Some things are more interesting when you revisit them later than whne they occur in real time. Under this two year-old thread, this exchang took place between us. I found it interesting in the context of the things happening today. Here below:
    Mahmud Saleh Berhe Y • a year ago
    Selam BerheY and IsmailAA
    I’m really busy to give a fitting reply. But dear Ahwat consider the following and then check out you heart, examine it as Dr.Bereket put it if we are not speaking past each other. BerheY time permitted I will revisit your rejoinder because it contains helpful materials to extend the discussion. Anyway, please consider these points:
    1. Ethiopia is occupying a territory ruled in favor of Eritrea. Essentially, it is occupying our land.
    2. PFDJ is surely using the above to explain its oppressive rule and policies.
    3. Some Eritreans oppose Pfdj oppressive rule while also acknowledging point #1. In short, they call for the rule of law as applied to Eritrean people (oppose the self-appointed pfdj). They argue we can stand for the territorial integrity of Eritrea and for the dignity of its people. Any problem here?
    4. Meanwhile, some Eritreans consider the above as appeasing or even supporting pfdj. SAAY and Tzigereda versed the rest rather well.
    5. Take out needed Ethiopian support from the equation. Would we be having this argument?
    6. Now, it is clear the people who are calling for tapering down the sense of nationalism and patriotism are folks who consider Ethiopia’s assistance for the opposition more than the infringement Ethiopia is placing on violating an agreement it had signed. iSem, HaileZ and BerheY expressed your caution on on whathappens regarding border the day after PFDJ. That is sensible. I only direct you to Ethiopia record vis-a-vi Eritrea, start from the feudal era, pass through Minilik to wayane, and there is no bright spot.
    Anyway, I’m out of time. But no one I know except pfdj has said, ” if border is not demarcated pfdj or mot”. No one. But for the mere of acknowledging Ethiopia’s belligerence, and for the mere call of emphasizing Eritreans’ independent course of actions in solving their problems, we are labelled “land first” lots ( not you and not your coinage). We are even told caring for Eritrean territorial integrity is akin to a drug infused to us by pfdj. The other point is that Dr. Bereket’s call is nothing new. It has been in the market, sometimes expressed explicitly
    Hayat Adem Mahmud Saleh • a year ago
    Hi Mahmuday and all:
    .1. ” Ethiopia is occupying a territory ruled in favor of Eritrea. Essentially, it is occupying our land.”
    I will address the claim from two assumed perspectives. First, I will treat it as if the claim is “totally true”. Let’s say “Ethiopia is occupying Eritrea’s land” right now. Now, you need to tell us which ones but let me assume that you are referring to the parts that are awarded to Eritrea by the EEBC delineation decision, still occupied and administered by Ethiopia, which I believe some of them are in the Badime area, and some others in the Erob/Menekh’soyto parts.
    Say: *Ethiopia says it is not going to hand them over, come what may. What are we going to do? Options:
    Go to the international court and sue them. That is one option. Evict them using force, that is another. Use different diplomatic and security pressures including by deploying hostile provocations to bring them to comply to eventually hand over the lands. That is your other option. Lastly, you can leave the situation as is and differ it to another better time and platform to settle the issue. There i give you all the options exhaustively. As a patriot, you pick whichever is feasible to help us get back the territories.
    The weirdest thing is, you are not trying one of these options but demanding of every breathing Eritrean to voice akaki-zeraf about the lands before they consider solving all other urgently pressing existential problems. PFDJ does the same for understandable reasons. You are telling us we should do the same because PFDJ is exploiting it. That is really dubious! PFDJ will never be short of excuses and exploitable situations to continue doing what it is doing now. If it is not the lands, it is something else. USA has never taken any land from Eritrea. And yet, PFDJ has always flagged it as a scary enemy for Eritreans. When it wants, PFDJ can downplay the importance of territory or border. PFDJ will do whatever works for the moment to keep the status quo. If really nothing else, PFDJ can say go to the moon!
    People who seek change in Eritrea shouldn’t be consumed about denying PFDJ of every excuse because they can’t. They should rather be sleepless about denying PFDJ of power and existence. The “we can do both” is very deceptive approach. If you think about regaining the lands by hook or crook as a matter of priority, you are legitimizing PFDJ’s stay in power. Hence shouldn’t be fighting against PFDJ. You should be fighting for and with them. The longer they stay, the more dangerous situation we will be losing the entire nation sooner than we thought.
    1. ” Ethiopia is occupying a territory ruled in favor of Eritrea. Essentially, it is occupying our land.” Now let’s address the other aspect of this claim. And I say straight up that it is a false and invalid claim. The argument here is “the border is not demarcated and formally transfer of territory had not been effected, not yet. The process was aborted before any settling closure. So, as things stand now, Ethiopia can be initially accused of not allowing the process to come to conclusion but not for land occupation. And then, the process of aborting was more destructively joined by PFDJ itself when it forced out UNMEE and violated the integrity of the TSZ. So, the only truthful claim that can be made as things stand now is: “Based on the decisions of the EEBC, Ethiopia is still in control of some of the lands delineated inside Eritrea”. Ethiopia as well can make the same claim, though “Based on the decisions of the EEBC, Eritrea is still in control of the some of the lands delineated inside Ethiopia” as there are equal or bigger chunks of Eritrean lands awarded to Ethiopia. So, in the same way, Eritrea is occupying a territory ruled in favor of Ethiopia.
    The argument coming from the champions of land patriots is dishonest, weak, untrue and unhelpful at best. Some of them purposefully advance such arguments to face-save and protect the culprit. It is not PFDJ that I am surprised to see exploiting every excuse. It is people like you trying to cow every independent voice to bow down. But I don’t think you have to be a cow to know what milk is. We know what PFDJ looks like.

    • Hayat Adem

      Dear Mahmuday,
      A follow up on that:
      1) The reason you are okay with the present agreement must come from one of the following:
      1) either you think it will eventually take us to regaining the lands occupied;
      2) it is alredy done, meaning the territorial transfer has already happened, albiet unpublicly; or,
      3) it has helped Eritreans remove the excuse IA was using not to releive young Eritreans from the indefnite service and Eritreans at large from a very controlled and securitized livelihood.
      Which one did we get…this time for you to be happy about it?