Cairo, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — The latest breakdown in talks with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam has left Egypt with dwindling options as it seeks to protect the main source of freshwater for its large and growing population.
Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is around 70% complete and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia's 100 million people.
But Egypt, with a population of around the same size, fears that the process of filling the reservoir behind the dam could slice into its share of the river, with catastrophic consequences. Pro-government media have cast it as a national security threat that could warrant military action.
Speaking at the U.N. last month, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said he would "never" allow Ethiopia to impose a "de facto situation" by filling the dam without an agreement.
"While we acknowledge Ethiopia's right to development, the water of the Nile is a question of life, a matter of existence to Egypt," he said.
Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewude, also speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, said her country believes "the use of the river should be (decided) according to international law and fair and equitable use of natural resources."
Egypt has been holding talks for years with Ethiopia and Sudan, upstream countries that have long complained about Cairo's overwhelming share of the river, which is enshrined in treaties dating back to the British colonial era. Those talks came to an acrimonious halt earlier this month, the third time they have broken down since 2014.
"We are fed up with Ethiopian procrastination. We will not spend our lifetime in useless talks," an Egyptian official told The Associated Press. "All options are on the table, but we prefer dialogue and political means."
Egypt has reached out to the United States, Russia, China and Europe, apparently hoping to reach a better deal through international mediation. The White House said earlier this month it supports talks to reach a sustainable agreement while "respecting each other's Nile water equities."
Mohamed el-Molla, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official, said Cairo would take the dispute to the U.N. Security Council if the Ethiopians refuse international mediation.
That has angered Ethiopia, which wants to resolve the dispute through the tripartite talks.
An Ethiopian official said the packages offered by Cairo so far "were deliberately prepared to be unacceptable for Ethiopia."
"Now they are saying Ethiopia has rejected the offer, and calling for a third-party intervention," the official added. Both the Ethiopian and the Egyptian official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks with the media.
The main dispute is centered on the filling of the dam's 74-billion-cubic-meter reservoir. Ethiopia wants to fill it as soon as possible so it can generate over 6,400 Megawatts, a massive boost to the current production of 4,000 Megawatts.
That has the potential to sharply reduce the flow of the Blue Nile, the main tributary to the river, which is fed by annual rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands. If the filling takes place during one of the region's periodic droughts, its downstream impact could be even more severe.
Egypt has proposed no less than seven years for filling the reservoir, and for Ethiopia to adjust the pace according to rainfall, said an Egyptian Irrigation Ministry official who is a member of its negotiation team. The official also was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Nile supplies more than 90% of Egypt's freshwater. Egyptians already have one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, at around 570 cubic meters per year, compared to a global average of 1,000. Ethiopians however have an average of 125 cubic meters per year.
Egypt wants to guarantee a minimum annual release of 40 billion cubic meters of water from the Blue Nile. The irrigation official said anything less could affect Egypt's own massive Aswan High Dam, with dire economic consequences.
"It could put millions of farmers out of work. We might lose more than one million jobs and $1.8 billion annually, as well as $300 million worth of electricity," he said.
The official said Ethiopia has agreed to guarantee just 31 billion cubic meters.
El-Sissi is set to meet with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, on Wednesday in the Russian city of Sochi, on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit. They may be able to revive talks, but the stakes get higher as the dam nears completion.
Ethiopia hopes to finish the much-delayed project by 2023. The dam's manager, Kifle Horro, said the project is now 68.5% complete and preparations are underway to finalize power generation from two turbines by next year.
The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, warned earlier this year that the "risk of future clashes could be severe if the parties do not also reach agreement on a longer-term basin-wide river management framework."
In recent weeks there have been calls by some commentators in Egypt's pro-government media to resort to force.
Abdallah el-Senawy, a prominent columnist for the daily newspaper el-Shorouk, said the only alternatives were internationalizing the dispute or taking military action.
"Egypt is not a small county," he wrote in a Sunday column. "If all diplomatic and legal options fail, a military intervention might be obligatory."
Anwar el-Hawary, the former editor of the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, compared the dispute to the 1973 war with Israel, in which Egypt launched a surprise attack into the Sinai Peninsula.
"If we fought to liberate Sinai, it is logical to fight to liberate the water," he wrote on Facebook. "The danger is the same in the two cases. War is the last response."
Berlin, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Germany's defense minister proposed Tuesday the establishment of an internationally controlled security zone in Syria, hours before a five-day cease-fire between Turkish troops and Syrian Kurdish fighters was set to expire in the war-torn country.
The proposal comes as Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters invaded northern Syria earlier this month, after President Donald Trump pulled back American troops who had partnered with Syrian Kurdish forces in the years-long war against the Islamic State group.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told German news agency dpa that "the creation of an internationally controlled security zone with the inclusion of Turkey and Russia" would have the goal of deescalating the situation in northern Syria.
The German parliament would need to decide on whether German troops could participate in such a zone, Kramp-Karrenbauer said. She also told broadcaster Deutsche Welle that Chancellor Angela Merkel had been informed of the proposal.
The situation in northern Syria has been relatively calm over the past few days despite sporadic violations of the five-day cease fire that went into effect on Thursday night under an agreement made by the U.S. and Turkey. Turkey expects the Syrian Kurdish fighters to pull back from a border area.
Kurdish fighters have pulled out from the town of Ras al-Ayn that witnessed some of the worst fighting after Turkish troops and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters launched the invasion on Oct. 9.
Although Turkish officials say the cease-fire agreement specifically covers a roughly 120-kilometer (75 mile) stretch between the Syrian border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, and extends 30 kilometers into Syria, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made clear he wants Turkish military presence along the full stretch of the border from the Euphrates River to Syria's border with Iraq.
Syrian state media reported Tuesday that government forces have entered new areas in the northeastern province of Hassakeh as part of an agreement they reached with the main Syrian Kurdish group in the area after Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria, essentially abandoning the Kurdish allies in the fight against IS.
The areas that the Syrian government and the Kurds agreed that the government would enter are outside the cease-fire agreement reached between the U.S. and Turkey.
Tokyo, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on Tuesday, proclaiming himself Japan's 126th emperor as the audience shouted "banzai" to wish him a long and prosperous reign.
Naruhito pledged at an enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Palace to serve his constitutional duty as a symbol of the state and to stay close to the people, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe congratulated him and led three "banzai" cheers. The cheers traditionally means "ten thousand year" of long life.
"I hearby proclaim to inside and outside of the country that I have enthroned," Naruhito said as he stood inside the Imperial Throne. "I hereby swear that I will act according to the constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always praying for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world as I always stand with the people."
Naruhito, in a formal brownish-orange robe that has been dyed in sappanwood and Japanese wax tree bark and a black headdress decorated with an upright tail, appeared as a pair of black-robed chamberlains opened the purple curtains of the throne at the sound of a bell.
The throne, called "Takamikura," is a 6.5-meter (21-foot) -high decorative structure resembling a gazebo or something at the Forbidden City in China. It was transported from the former Imperial Palace in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto, where emperors lived until 150 years ago.
The enthronement ceremony is the high point of several succession rituals that began in May when Naruhito inherited the throne after the abdication of Akihito, his father. Naruhito is the 126th emperor in the world's oldest hereditary monarchy that historians say goes back 1,500 years.
The proclamation is largely meant to allow the government to showcase the monarchy to win public support and to preserve Japan's cultural heritage, historians say.
Despite the time, effort and cost put into preparations, the ceremony lasted only about 30 minutes.
The enthronement ceremony was originally modeled after one by the ancient Tang dynasty of China and the second of a three-part process following the May succession. Next month sees the highly religious and divisive ritual of the Grand Harvest. Some experts have raised questions over the government's funding of 16 billion yen ($150 million) for ceremonies that contain religious rites.
Criticism was largely eclipsed by the festive mood, in part because Naruhito's succession was by abdication not by death, palace watchers said.
Abe's ultra-conservative government also granted pardons marking the occasion. The decision was published Tuesday in the special edition of the official gazette, which provided for about 550,000 eligible applicants. The decision was not publicly debated.
The pre-war custom of clemency by the emperor has triggered criticism as being undemocratic and politically motivated. At the time of former emperor Akihito's enthronement, 2.5 million people were given amnesty.
Earlier Tuesday, the 59-year-old emperor put on a white robe and prayed at "Kashikodokoro" and two other shrines. The visits Tuesday morning are to report to gods ahead of the ceremony, to be attended by 2,000 guests from in and outside Japan.
Enshrined at "Kashikodokoro" is the goddess Amaterasu, the mythological ancestress of Japan's emperors.
Later Tuesday, Naruhito and his wife Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, will host a court banquet, to be attended by about 400 foreign dignitaries and representatives from Japan's administrative, legislative and judicial branches and their spouses.
A parade originally planned for Tuesday afternoon has been postponed until Nov. 10 due to a deadly typhoon that caused flooding and other damage in central and northern Japan.
Naruhito and Masako have been warmly welcomed by the Japanese public, despite comparisons to their beloved predecessors. They made positive impressions by freely conversing with U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania during their visit weeks after Naruhito's succession in May, palace watchers say.
"I think people have high expectations for the emperor who is fluent in foreign language and internationalized," said historian and monarchy expert, Eiichi Miyashiro, also a journalist.
Naruhito is a historian, a viola player and an expert on water transport who studied at Oxford. Masako, a Harvard-educated diplomat, has struggled for more than a decade since developing "adjustment disorder" after giving birth to their only child, Princess Aiko, and facing pressure to produce a boy in Japan's monarchy that only allows male heirs.
A shortage of males in the royal family has raised succession concerns. Naruhito has an 83-year-old uncle and two potential heirs — his younger brother Crown Prince Akishino and a 13-year-old nephew, prompting calls for a debate, possibly to allow female emperors.
Abe and his ultra-conservative supporters who want to keep paternalistic family values insist on male-only succession, while a majority of the general public support allowing female emperors.
Beijing, Oct 21 (Xinhua/UNB) -- President Xi Jinping recently made important instructions on the 20th anniversary of the system of sending sci-tech experts to rural areas.
Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said in the past 20 years since the implementation of the system, more and more experts have been sent to the countryside to serve agriculture, rural areas and farmers with science and technology.
They have helped publicize the Party's policies on agriculture, rural areas and farmers, popularize agricultural science and technology, spearhead sci-tech innovation and entrepreneurship in rural areas, and lead villages out of poverty, Xi said.
"They have enabled farmers to acquire a stronger sense of fulfillment and and happiness," he said.
While stressing innovation offers significant support for the full vitalization of rural areas, Xi said more efforts should be made to adhere to the system which is a vital means of allowing sci-tech innovation talent to serve rural areas.
He encouraged sci-tech experts working in rural areas to uphold their original aspiration and make new and greater contributions to poverty alleviation and rural vitalization.
A meeting was held in Beijing Monday to mark the 20th anniversary of China introducing the system of sending sci-tech experts to rural areas. Important instructions made by Xi were read out at the meeting.
Vice Premier Liu He, also a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, said at the meeting that the important instructions made by Xi are the basic guidelines to carry forward the system in the new era, noting that the system and policy environment should evolve around innovation-driven development, rural vitalization and poverty alleviation.
Also at Monday's meeting, 92 sci-tech experts working in rural areas and 43 relevant organizations were commended.
Fuzhou, Oct 21 (Xinhua/UNB) -- A policy briefing of China-EU scientific cooperation was held Monday in Fuzhou, capital of east China's Fujian Province, according to the organizer.
The event attracted nearly 200 researchers, which was jointly hosted by the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to China, the Fujian Provincial Science and Technology Department and China Science and Technology Exchange Center.
Philippe Vialatte, minister-counselor of science and technology of the Delegation of the EU to China, introduced Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation program, to researchers at the event, during which counselors of science and technology of Germany, Italy and other European countries also presented their countries' cooperation policies and funding programs.
The Ministry of Science and Technology has funded 69 joint projects in the fields of new materials, food, agriculture, energy and health, which have strongly supported China-EU cooperation in scientific research, said Zhao Jing, deputy head of the international cooperation department of the ministry.
Provincial universities, enterprises and scientific research institutions have undertaken 34 China-EU scientific and technological cooperation projects of the ministry, and nearly 80 provincial cooperation projects with the EU, said You Jiansheng, deputy head of the Fujian Provincial Science and Technology Department.