Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry (R), Ethiopian FM Tedros Adhanom (Photo: Courtesy of Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Egyptian-Ethiopian relations are improving amid mutual eagerness for closer ties between the two countries, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said shortly after arrival in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, for talks on the country's Grand Renaissance Dam project Thursday.
Shoukry underlined that Ethiopia is showing concern for, and understanding of, Egyptian interests.
The most recent round of talks between Egypt and Ethiopia in Sudan's Khartoum reflected a significant easing of the crisis that the controversial dam had caused. Egypt's irrigation minister said last week that 85 percent of issues pertaining to the dam had been resolved.
Egypt's demand to commission experts to write a report on the design of the dam, and on ways to ensure that the build-up of its reservoir could be achieved without resulting in a major reduction in Egypt’s share of Nile water, was granted in tripartite negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia last week.
Egypt is concerned that the dam Ethiopia is building for electricity generation purposes would negatively affect its share of Nile water, Egypt's state news agency MENA reported.
Shoukry, who is meeting Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, assured Egypt is keen to support Ethiopia's development through joint-projects and investment, underlining the necessity of cooperation in various fields, adding that the Nile River is central to the development of both countries.
Closer relations start after negotiations
In interview with Al-Ahram daily newspaper published Thursday, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Moghazy said trust-building steps between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan will start when negotiations are concluded.
Moghazy didn't conceal difficulties encountered in the tripartite talks, but said many potential obstacles were overcome through the wisdom and patience of negotiators.
Egypt's signing on to an agreement with Sudan and Ethiopia doesn't necessarily translate into implicit support of the Grand Renaissance Dam or its specifications and reservoir filling timeframe, Moghazy said.
"Egypt's agreement is pending until the conclusion of studies. What we have achieved so far is establishing mechanisms for resolving disputes," Moghazy told Al-Ahram.
Moghazy believes, however, that a watershed agreement was reached in last week's meeting whereby Ethiopia recognised Egypt and Sudan's right to Nile water and its responsibility not to cause harm to existing water shares.
"Ethiopia pledged so in the agreement, which represents a turning point in building trust with Egypt not seen in decades," Moghazy said.
According to the minister, the parties agreed to a period of six months to conduct the necessary studies and created a committee of Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese experts to present reports to an international consultancy that would finally issue the necessary and obligatory recommendations for building the dam.