Egypt's Sisi to meet with Ethiopian PM in December to discuss deadlock over dam studies

Ahram Online , Wednesday 15 Nov 2017

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in close snapshots (Bassem Abo-Elabass)
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in close snapshots (Bassem Abo-Elabass)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn are scheduled to meet in Cairo in December to discuss the current deadlock over a controversial hydroelectric dam being built by Addis Ababa, as Cairo aims to drum up international backing for its concerns over the controversial project.

Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said on Tuesday that next month's joint high-level committee is part of Egypt's political efforts and ongoing talks with Addis Ababa to resolve points of contentions over the long-awaited technical studies on the impact of the dam on downstream countries.

Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia agreed in a 2015 Declaration of Principles to protect the interests of downstream countries and to abide by the studies on the impact of the dam, which are set to be carried out by two French firms.

Egypt, which relies almost emntirely on the Nile river for its water supply, fears the giant dam might cut the river's flow.

Egypt's Nile water partially originates in Ethiopia from the Blue Nile, one of two main tributaries.

Abu Zeid's comments came three days after Egypt's irrigation minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati said talks between the three countries received a new setback when ministers at a tripartite meeting held in Cairo failed to reach an agreement to endorse a preliminary report outlining the planned dam's studies.

Egypt approved the report while Khartoum and Addis Ababa rejected it.

Abu Zeid said in comments to CBC satellite TV channel that Cairo is now seeking alternatives by rallying international support to "pressure sides holding back the progress" of the studies.

"We are now in the phase of involving the international community to let them know the details of the issue, what the stumbling blocks are, the reasons behind the stalemate, and who is responsible for this," Abu Zeid told the Hona Al-Asema talk show.

The spokesman said the three countries have earlier agreed to not involve any foreign sides in the details of the discussions of the tripartite technical committee, which has been regularly meeting over the past three years to resolve contentions and ease tensions over the dam project.

Egypt considers the Nile's water, its main source for farming and drinking water, a matter of national security.

The 6,000-megawatt Grand Renaissance Dam, the construction of which Ethiopia is currently finalizing, is situated close to the country's border with Sudan and is slated to be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa upon completion.

Ethiopia hopes it the project will make the country an East African power hub and that it will be able to export electricity generated by the dam.

Ethiopian officials maintain that the dam will not disrupt the river's flow.

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