The long-standing tensions burst open again on Friday, when Trump was on a call with Sudan and Israel to announce a deal to begin normalizing relations between the two former enemies. Trump’s comments then veered toward the dam dispute that also involves Sudan, which is located between Egypt and Ethiopia.
“[Egypt] will end up blowing up the dam,” Trump said. “And I said it and I say it loud and clear … they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something.”
In response on Saturday, Ethiopia’s foreign minister said in a statement that “the incitement of war between Ethiopia and Egypt from a sitting U.S. president neither reflects the long-standing partnership and strategic alliance between Ethiopia and the United States nor is acceptable in international law governing interstate relations,” the Associated Press reported. He summoned the U.S. ambassador for clarification.
Ethiopia’s former prime minister Hailemariam Dessalegn also weighed in, tweeting Saturday of the U.S. president that “the man doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.”
Current Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office also issued a statement Saturday criticizing the nature of the comments, though it did not directly name the U.S. president, the AP reported.
“Occasional statements of belligerent threats to have Ethiopia succumb to unfair terms still abound,” the statement said. “These threats and affronts to Ethiopian sovereignty are misguided, unproductive, and clear violations of international law.”
The prime minister’s office added that “Ethiopia will not cave in to aggressions of any kind.”
The United States tried to broker a deal between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Nile River impasse. But Addis Ababa accused Washington of being biased in its efforts and ultimately walked away from negotiations.
Then, in September, under Trump’s directives, the State Department suspended millions of dollars of foreign aid to Ethiopia after it began filling up a reservoir located behind the dam.
“They will never see that money unless they adhere to that agreement,” Trump said Friday.
Egypt — whose president, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, Trump has called his “favorite dictator” — warned in February that it could use “all available means” to defend itself against the dam.