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No deal in Nile River trilateral negotiations

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Ethiopia’s Water and Energy Minister stresses importance of respecting Egypt’s water needs

Egyptian Water Minister Mohamed Abdul Muttalib listens during tripartite talks about Ethiopia's Great Renaissance Dam on January 4, 2014 in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The talks are being attended by the irrigation ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan and are set to last for three days.  (AFP PHOTO EBRAHIM HAMID)

Egyptian Water Minister Mohamed Abdul Muttalib listens during tripartite talks about Ethiopia’s Great Renaissance Dam on January 4, 2014 in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
(AFP PHOTO EBRAHIM HAMID)

Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources said on Sunday that a deal on the implementation of recommendations by an expert panel on Nile River water sharing was not reached during the third round of trilateral meetings between ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Representatives from the three states included Egyptian Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel Moteleb, Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources and Electricity Moataz Moussa and Ethiopa’s Ministry of Water and Energy representatives.

In a statement the ministry said that two key points were discussed, but that Ethiopia’s stance remains unchanged.

The first point of debate focused on an Egyptian recommendation for the formation of an expert panel with representatives from Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa that would monitor the building of the dam and ensure that the recommendations of independent expert panel are followed. A second Egyptian recommendation called for establishing certain principles guaranteeing the rights of affected states.

Both points were refused.

On Saturday, Abdel Moteleb clarified in his opening statement that these two recommendations were the reasons for holding the meetings and that he had hoped an agreement could be reached.

A previous discussion regarding Egypt’s suggestions was postponed in December, though the three parties agreed on a timeframe to implement the recommendations of the independent expert panel.

The statement concluded that the meetings have ended unless new proposals are presented.

The 2011 decision to start building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has caused some friction in relations between the three Nile River countries over fears that the dam will have a detrimental effect on the water share of the downstream countries. Ethiopia began diverting water from the Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile, as part of the construction of the dam.

Egypt’s fears that the Ethiopian dam will affect its current majority share of the Nile’s water. In accordance with agreements signed in 1929 and 1959, Egypt is guaranteed 55.5 billion cubic metres of the estimated total of 84 billion cubic metres of Nile water produced each year.

On Friday, The Reporter Ethiopia interviewed Ethiopian Minister of Water, Energy and Irrigation Alemayehu Tegenu, who said, “Ethiopia could not accept the Egyptian proposal to jointly monitor the dam project.”

Tegenu also said that Egypt is misinformed on some issues regarding the dam and the amount of water that would reach Egypt, and also stressed the need to respect Egypt’s need to use the Nile.

 ”While carrying out our project, we are also aware that the Egyptian people need to use the water of the Nile too. We are asking to develop this resource with a mutual benefit in mind. It has to be known that Ethiopia does not own any irrigable land between the dam and the Sudan, where the water continues its journey upstream. There is nothing that interrupts the flow of water to those upstream. It is used for power generation, after that we have no use for it. The dam will also help regulate the water for countries upstream. The Egyptian people need to know this information,” he said.

The dam project’s Director Simegnew Bekele expressed hope on Saturday that the construction of the dam would be completed in three years and that thirty percent of the construction would be completed within a few months.

He said that the Grand Renaissance Dam would prevent annual floods in Sudan and would help prevent the accumulation of silt at dams in Sudan and Egypt. He added that it would also prevent the evaporation of water from downstream countries, and would provide opportunities for Ethiopia to export electricity to neighbouring states.


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