Why UAE is siding with Ethiopia against Egypt?



The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) decline to support Egypt’s position in the dispute with Ethiopia over water rights in the Nile River is paining Egyptian viewers. The UAE is not only an Arab sister country, but one of Egypt’s largest economic and political allies in the Arab Gulf region.


In response to the diplomatic campaign that Egypt launched in 2020 to protest Ethiopia’s insistence on violating Egypt’s water rights, Arab countries issued statements of support to Egypt’s water security rights marking it as “an integral part of their own security.” The UAE was the only Arab country that declined to issue a statement of solidarity with Egypt at that time, which was so frustrating and unexplainable. Meanwhile, the UAE provided the Ethiopian government with financial aid and military equipment that further enhanced the power of Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, against the Tigrayan dissidents and enabled him to continue with the GERD project, against the interests of Egypt.


Once again, last week, the UAE failed to defend Egypt’s case or, at least, support its efforts to mobilize the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to intervene in the Nile River conflict. That is despite the fact that the UAE is currently holding a non-permanent seat at the UNSC and thus has the power to mobilize the international community to stop Ethiopia from violating Egypt’s right to water security. The international community, including Egypt best allies – Russia, China, and the United States, has been turning a deaf ear to the long-term dispute, especially after the Ethiopians started filling the dam, two years ago. They have always argued that the issue is African and thus should be resolved by the mediation of the African Union.


To the frustration of millions of Egyptians, the UAE recently adopted a similar insensible position to that of the western countries, regarding the Nile River conflict. On August 2nd, the UAE’s UN mission issued a statement that hard-heartedly ignored all Egypt’s concerns. The UAE’s statement is simply throwing the ball in the court of the African Union, and is calling upon the conflicting parties to sit together for negotiations. That is despite the fact that the African Union, which is based in the Ethiopian Capital, has already been failing for two decades to resolve the conflict. The diplomatic negotiations, which reached a deadlock in 2019, had been used by the Ethiopian diplomats as a maneuver to win more time until the engineers finish the dam.


The UAE’s statement came at a fatal moment for Egypt’s cause. On July 29th, Egypt submitted the third appeal at the UNSC to protest Ethiopia’s insistence on violating its water rights by unilaterally proceeding with filling the GERD. The two countries, along with Sudan, declined a declaration of principles, in 2015, stipulating that Ethiopia must consult with downstream countries before proceeding with filling the dam. As expected, Ethiopia has never adhered to the declaration and is purposefully harming the water security of Egypt and Sudan. That should have made the case ripe for consideration by the UNSC, if the UAE chooses to give it a push.


It is hard to understand why the UAE is standing against Egypt’s interests in this particular dispute. UAE’s interests are tied to Egypt’s political and economic stability and security, which is now threatened by the Ethiopian moves.


In 2021, the UAE was declared as world’s largest foreign investor in Egypt, with direct investments exceeding US$15 billion. In 2019, the Sovereign Fund of Egypt and the Abu Dhabi Sovereign Fund (ADQ) signed a strategic cooperation agreement to use joint investments of US$20 billion to enhance crucial sectors and assets of the Egyptian economy. Currently, there are more than one thousand UAE companies working in Egypt, including in vital sectors of food industry, energy (oil and gas), and logistical services of the Suez Canal. In March of this year, UAE announced new investments in Egypt’s financial market, amounting to two billion dollars.


UAE’s generous investments in the Egyptian market are advertised as a means to support the Egyptian economy and ensure the stability and sustainability of the Egyptian state. Though, to a great extent, that contradicts with UAE’s position on the Nile River conflict.


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