Israel Invited to Mediate Egypt-Ethiopia Dispute

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israel could help to broker a settlement of the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over use of the Nile waters, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.

A member of the Egyptian parliament, Tawfik Okasha, invited the Israeli ambassador in Cairo to discuss the option of Israeli mediation, which he says is the key to resolving the matter, according to Egyptian media reports.

“I have personally invited the Israeli ambassador, Chaim Koren, to a dinner at my house next week to discuss the Nile dispute and other important issues.”

In an indication that the improvement in Israeli-Egyptian relations is real and may no longer have to be conducted in secret, Okasha told Egyptian journalists: “I will take a photo with him and give it to you so you can publish it.”

Underlining the point, Okasha said: “We, the Egyptians have a schizophrenic personality. Don’t our police secure the Israeli ambassador? Doesn’t our intelligence participate in safeguarding him? The safeguarding of the Israeli ambassador is 15 times better than the safeguarding of any other ambassador in Egypt. Isn’t the presence of an Israeli ambassador in Egypt a result of Israel and Egypt’s mutual recognition of each other?”

Koren said he was surprised at the invitation, and sounded a bit wary in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday. “When an Egyptian MP is interested in promoting the shared interest of Israel and Egypt, of course we welcome the initiative and try to figure out what it is about.” He noted that it stands in contrast to the official anti-normalization policy of the Egyptian parliament.

The Nile dispute centers on the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Resistance Dam. For Ethiopia, it promises a source of renewable energy; but Egypt is concerned that it could result in a decrease in its share of the river’s water. The project could also lead to periods of drought and a possible dam collapse as a result of its construction in an area with a strong flow of Blue Nile waters, Egypt argues.