Morsy’s talks with politicians, Ethiopia “war” broadcast on TV spurs criticism

The live broadcast of a consultative meeting held by President Mohamed Morsy and various political figures on Monday to discuss the consequences of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam included sensitive national security issues and suggestions for naval action.

Most of the attendants were unaware that the meeting was being aired live. Morsys' assistant, Pakniam al-Sharqawy, apologized for forgetting to notify the participants about this.

Last week, Ethiopia announced the diversion of the Blue Nile's stream as a step towards launching works on its Renaissance Dam. But the declaration and the project in general, sparked fears in Egypt and Sudan that the diversion would affect their shares of waters which they obtained under British occupation.

“We will work on absorbing the shock caused by the Millennium Dam”, Morsy said during the meeting, aired by Egypt’s state TV, adding that the dam will affect only 8 percent of the total of Egypt’s electricity generation.

Commenting on some experts’ predictions that the dam might collapse and pose a danger to Egypt, the president said: “This, of course, will be in Egypt’s favor, but we cannot say that (officially)”. 

Morsy’s foreign affairs secretary, Khaled al-Qazzaz, said Ethiopia has breached international agreements by embarking on this project.

The most controversial contribution was made by Ayman Nour, chairman of Ghad al-Thawra party, who suggested that Egypt disseminate rumors that it is seeking advanced aircrafts. He said this is an intelligence technique of intimidation. “It might not be realistic, but it will bring results on the diplomatic path”. Nour, however, said he believes diplomatic efforts will not yield great outcomes: “Ethiopians have taken the decision, and it is highly difficult for them to backtrack”.

On his part, Mohamed Saad al-Katatny, former parliament speaker and chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said all options are available in handling the crisis. He added that a report submitted by a panel of experts on the dam raises concerns.

Younis Makhyoun, chairman of the Salafi Nour Party, said the last chip Egypt has is using its secret services to demolish the dam, describing the project as a declaration of war.

Chairman of the moderate Islamist Wasat Party, Abul Ela Mady, suggested sending army destroyers to the Bab al-Mandab strait and spreading rumors that Egypt is about to strike the dam.

Former information minister Osama Heikal said broadcasting the meeting live was “a farce” that reflects “the state of absurdity Egypt is experiencing”. “Is that the way to solve a national security issue?” he wondered in a phone-in with Tahrir satellite channel late Monday. “There should have been a meeting by the National Defense Council to determine the method of handling that crisis”.

Heikal blamed President Morsy for the confusion concerning the broadcast of the meeting: “There is no way the meeting was aired without Morsy’s knowledge. Had I been an Ethiopian watching that meeting, I would have concluded that Egypt is a failing state that has run out of options. The President invited irrelevant personalities to solve a national security issue. The whole world is now laughing at Egypt because of that meeting”.

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