File photo: Construction activity on the Grand Renaissance dam in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz region, March 16, 2014 REUTERS
Egypt and Ethiopia have agreed during fresh talks in Addis Ababa to overcome obstacles in negotiations over a disputed dam project Addis Ababa is building on the Nile River that Cairo fears will diminish its water supplies, Egypt's foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and the country's intelligence chief Abbas Kamel met with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the Ethiopian capital on Tuesday where they delivered a message from Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to bolster bilateral relations and to push ahead with the decisions made by the leaders of the two nations on the Grand Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia’s $4 billion hydroelectric project.
The two sides have "stressed the importance to press ahead with the current course of negotiations and to overcome any obstacles to ensure the desired understanding over the Renaissance Dam is reached in a way that ensures achieving development benefits of Ethiopia while preserving Egypt's water security," the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
Egypt fears that the project will cut into its share of the Nile’s water. Addis Ababa maintains that the dam will not reduce Egypt’s share of the Nile and will help Ethiopia’s development.
During the talks, the officials discussed efforts to implement a 2015 agreement signed by Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over Nile water rights and addressed decisions made by the ministers of the three countries during talks in May, which broke months of deadlock. These decisions include setting up a scientific study group to consult the nations on the process of filling the reservoir of the 6,000-megawatt dam and that the leaders of the three nations will meet every six months for consultations.
The two sides also stressed they aim to take steps to set up a proposed fund to invest in development projects in the three African nations and agreed to boost trade exchange and Egyptian investment in Addis Ababa.
The talks on Tuesday came days after Abiy said that the ongoing construction of the dam, which Ethiopia hopes will become Africa's largest power generator and exporter, is facing delays and issues over its design.
In June, Abiy and El-Sisi signaled during talks in Cairo that they had made a breakthrough to resolve differences over the dam project. The Egyptian president said at the time that the two countries have come a long way in building confidence and strengthening their bilateral cooperation. Abiy said his country was committed to securing Egypt's share of Nile water.
The two leaders are expected to meet in September on the sidelines of a China-Africa cooperation forum in Beijing.