The Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed says his country will go to war to protect a major dam project on the Blue Nile River that is the source of an escalating disagreement with its neighbor Egypt.

"Some say things about use of force (by Egypt).  It should be underlined that no force could stop Ethiopia from building a dam," Mr. Abiy said.  "If there is a need to go to war, we could get millions readied.  If some could fire a missile, others could use bombs.  But that's not in the best interest of all of us," he added.

Egypt characterized those comments as "unacceptable".  The two countries have been negotiating for years on the conditions for operating the dam and filling the reservoir behind it.  The Blue Nile feeds the Nile River from which Egypt draws 90 percent of its irrigation and drinking water and says it has "historic rights" to the river guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959.

The US$5 Billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is 70 percent complete and is planned to generate 16,153 GWh of electricity annually, which Ethiopia insists is necessary for its economic development.

The US has invited the foreign ministers of of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan to Washington to try and break the impasse.  Egypt has accepted, but Ethiopia has rejected mediation in the past and it is not clear if it will attend.