Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Bahaa ElDin said on Saturday that Egypt does not oppose the establishment of development projects or dams along the Nile River as long as it does not affect water distribution between countries.
Bahaa ElDin’s statement, made during an interview on a state TV channel, was in relation to the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which many fear will alter the balance of water to downstream countries such as Egypt and Sudan. The minister said Ethiopia has the right to pursue such projects as long as it does not alter Egypt’s water shares.
According to the state-run news agency MENA, the Ethiopian prime minister has promised the state will not allow the dam to affect Egypt’s share of the water, stressing that the dam serves only to generate electricity.
During his interview Bahaa ElDin also mentioned the international committee tasked with investigating the potential effects of the dam, saying if the committee concluded the dam would have an adverse effect on Egypt then discussions with Ethiopia to find an alternative would be needed.
If no agreement can be reached between Egypt and Ethiopia, MENA reported Bahaa ElDin saying, then Egypt would turn to international rules and laws to settle the matter. However the minister stressed ties between the two nations were strong and Ethiopia would be flexible if needed.
The dam is a contentious issue between Egypt and Ethiopia. In order to deal with the issue surrounding the dam’s effects on downstream nations, an international panel of experts (IPoE) was established to investigate the impact of the dam.
The IPoE consists of ten experts from Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and members of the international community. It is expected to complete the report this month, and Egypt has said it will base future dialogue surrounding the dam on IPoE findings.
Egypt has previously refused to sign the Entebbe Agreement, which would see a redistribution of Nile water. The redistribution would potentially have a negative effect on Egypt’s share of the water; 55.5 billion cubic metres annually from an estimated total 84 billion cubic metre output.
Reports last year surrounding a potential military strike on the dam by Egypt were vehemently denied by Egyptian authorities. The allegations were initially made in a Sudanese newspaper citing Wikileaks documents alleging that Sudan had agreed to allow Egypt to construct an airbase from where Egypt would be able to launch an airstrike on the dam if needed.
On Saturday Minister of Defence Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi refused to resort to military force to solve any water disputes Egypt may have with neighbouring countries. His statement was made in a military camp in Dahshour where, according to state-owned Al-Ahram, he told the press that Egypt would look for a peaceful solution to the Ethiopian issue.
“We want to live and [Ethiopians] want to live,” Al-Sisi said.