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Ethiopia dam talks to resume Monday

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Water and foreign ministry official to discuss “sticking points” in GERD talks


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.

Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdul Muttalib will head a delegation to Addis Ababa on Monday to continue talks regarding the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Muttalib accepted an invitation from his Ethiopian counterpart Alemayehu Tegunu to discuss the “sticking points” regarding the construction of the GERD, which Egypt fears could have a detrimental impact upon its water supply.

Sudan, which is also an interested party in these talks, will not be represented at the meeting in the Ethiopian capital. Spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Khaled Wassif told Daily News Egypt that this “is usual” because there are issues for Ethiopia and Egypt to discuss bilaterally. He stressed the importance of “direct contact” at this time.

Wassif said that one of the “sticking points” that remains is the difference of opinion regarding the formation of a committee to oversee the implementation of recommendations of a report detailing confidence-building measures concerning the dam and its affect on downstream nations.

 “We insist on including international experts in the committee, but they [Ethiopia] only wants to include representatives from the three countries [Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan],” said Wassif. The three countries agreed in December to form the committee, however the last trilateral meeting at the start of January ended with no agreement reached.

Muttalib will be joined in Ethiopia with other representatives from his ministry as well as representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The minister has said previously that “Egypt’s firm position on the issue of the GERD… does not conflict at all with the Ethiopian government’s desire to increase development and achieve the aspirations of the Ethiopian people in raising the standard of living.” He added that these are “legitimate aspirations” that can be achieved without harming Egypt’s water share.

Ethiopia began diverting water form one of the River Nile’s tributaries in May 2013, prompting concern in Egypt and Sudan over the affect the electricity generating dam could have on the water supply to downstream countries.

Last week Muttalib suggested that Ethiopia build two smaller dams to ensure there is as little impact as possible on the flow of water. The Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Moahemd Ibrahim also expressed concern least week over the potential impact the dam could have on Egypt’s antiquities due to the potential lowering of water levels that could contribute to the cracking of some monuments.

Egypt has historically claimed the lion’s share of the Nile waters as per agreements signed in 1929 and 1959 guaranteeing Egypt 55.5bn cubic metres of water annually of the estimated total of 84bn cubic metres.

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Joel Gulhane

News Reporter

Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane

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