Ethiopia's Great Renaissance Dam is constructed in Guba Woreda, some 40 km (25 miles) from Ethiopia's border with Sudan, June 28, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt's minister of irrigation has said a tripartite agreement on sharing the Nile River's waters and operating Ethiopia's contested Grand Renaissance Dam will be binding on the three signatory states, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, once signed.
In comments carried by state news agency MENA Wednesday, Minister Hossam Moghazy said the deal will hold Ethiopia to amending the dam's specifications if consultancy studies on the hydroelectric project prove it harmful to downstream countries.
Moghazy said the agreement sets forth "a system of monitoring and regulating the operation" of the dam project.
He added that further details of the deal — due be signed on 23 March in Sudan's capital, Khartoum — will be announced after review by legal, political and technical experts, and approval by the heads of states of the three countries.
Egypt has repeatedly voiced anxiety over the dam, which when finished will have a 74 billion cubic metre reservoir on the Nile’s largest tributary, fearing its water supply could be negatively affected.
Addis Ababa has repeatedly affirmed the 6,000 megawatt dam, which will be Africa's biggest hydroelectric station, will not harm downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
Sudan, bordering Egypt and Ethiopia and which also relies on the Nile for much of its water, said it backs the project.
Moghazy said concurrence between the three states "on a political path" is the real guarantee on reservations each party has.
Sudanese Minister of Iirrigation Moataz Moussa said Wednesday, as quoted by Sudan's state news agency, the agreement would be the gateway to "cooperation and sustainable development" projects between the three countries.
The deal was first announced at the end of tripartite talks in Khartoum earlier in March. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said at the time the deal outlines cooperation between the three countries on the use of the eastern Nile Basin and the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti hailed this week the upcoming deal as "historic" while his Ethiopian counterpart, Tedros Adhanom, earlier said it would open a "new chapter" in relations between the three states.
The agreement, which aims to resolve the dispute over the mega-project, will be sent to the heads of the three states to give their seal of approval once reviewed.
The consultancy firm that will carry out new water and environmental studies on the dam, in fulfillment of an agreement made between the three countries last year, has yet to be selected after a delay from an initial selection date of 9 March.
Moghazy said Wednesday that one of two shortlisted firms will be chosen by end of March.