Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan will hold a new round of talks starting Monday to weigh the regional impact of a giant dam being built on a Nile River tributary in Ethiopia after earlier studies proved questionable.
A meeting of water officials from the three nations in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, will on 4 November discuss the impact of the hydroelectric project on downstream countries.
Egypt and Ethiopia have rowed about what would be the biggest hydropower plant in Africa, which Egypt fears will reduce its water supply.
Two of Africa's most populous nations appeared to have cooled the dispute recently, with the Egyptian prime minister telling a cabinet meeting on Wednesday the project might bring "prosperity to neighboring countries, given the water surplus the Horn of Africa nation has."
An Egyptian minister said a new round of talks would be held between ministers and delegates of the three countries over the coming weeks.
"Next week's meeting will be the first of a series of talks between the three nations aiming to reach a settlement," Water Resource and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Muttalib told Ahram Online.
"Dialogue is fundamental to furthering the interests of the three countries, and that's what Egypt is looking forward to in the near future," he added.
The giant $4.2 billion dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile, near the Sudanese border, was announced two years ago but Egypt was alarmed when engineers started diverting the river in May as part of construction work at the site.
The minister made it clear that Egypt seeks to bolster cooperation with the Nile Basin counties as major strategic allies.
In June, a international committee of experts said Ethiopia’s studies of the dam’s impact were "very basic, and not yet at a level of detail, sophistication and reliability that would befit a development of this magnitude, importance and with such regional impact."
According to a government statement, the parties will discuss the findings and recommendations of the international committee of experts tasked with assessing the Nile dam project in order to reach a consensual vision that does not affect the downstream countries' share of the Nile water.
An Egyptian diplomat said the meeting, which was put off several times earlier, would be decisive for Egypt's position on the project.
"The tripartite committee is due to draw up a major technical analysis upon which future moves by Egypt will be undertaken, as views are still conflicting to date," Egyptian presidential envoy to Africa Mona Omar told Ahram Online.
According to Omar, Cairo has proposed reducing the dam's capacity and offsetting the difference with another hydropower project away from the Blue Nile which provides almost all of Egypt's water.
The Egyptian government has applauded a recent positive stance by Addis Ababa, citing statements by Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in which he said the dam would not affect the water interests of the downstream countries and called for turning the project into a partnership rather than a source of conflict or war.
"There has been a notable positive development in Addis Ababa's stance... But more importantly, we need to iron out a settlement that serves the interests of all parties," Omar said.