Egypt accuses Ethiopia of withholding information on dam project

Ahram Online, Saturday 15 Jun 2013

Egyptian FM to arrive in Ethiopia Sunday for discussions on Renaissance Dam project that authorities fear will negatively impact Egypt's Nile water share

Egypt accuses Ethiopia
Magdy Amer, deputy of Egypt's Foreign Minister (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Ethiopia failed to submit to Egypt all the required studies on its Grand Renaissance Dam project, according to Magdy Amer, deputy Egyptian foreign minister for irrigation matters.

Amer underlined at a press conference Saturday Egypt's fears over the project are substantiated. He added that Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr will fly to Ethiopia Sunday for meetings with officials on the matter.

"Discussions will include a number of issues that the Egyptian side will focus on ... to ensure [water] security and quantity," said Amer, who is Egypt's coordinator with Nile Basin countries.

He also explained that a technical committee, tasked during the interim government of ex-premier Essam Sharaf with estimating the possible ramifications of the dam project on Egypt, said Ethiopia only released "depleted studies and withheld other required studies that should have been submitted."

Amer added: "During the past months, Ethiopia has been stalling and manoeuvring … Egyptian fears over the dam [project] have become real and needed to be addressed seriously."

He went on to reiterate concerns over a possible collapse of the dam because of the nature of the soil in the dam's location and other geological factors.

Amer stressed the importance of negotiations between Egypt, neighbouring country Sudan, and Ethiopia to put an end to the deadlock.

"Egyptian authorities on all levels will be mobilising to contain the situation," he said.

On Thursday, Ethiopia's parliament ratified a controversial treaty asserting access to Nile water resources.

The deal replaces a colonial-era agreement that granted Egypt and Sudan the majority of water rights, and allows upstream countries to implement irrigation and hydropower projects without first seeking Egypt's approval.

Egypt and Sudan have not signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) tabled by the Nile Basin Initiative, but six upstream nations have.

In addition to Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have all signed, while Democratic Republic of Congo and newly independent South Sudan have said they also intend to join.

"What Egypt wants is that Ethiopia keeps its promise to keep intact our Nile water share," Amer said.

For decades, Egypt held veto rights over all upstream projects, following powers granted by a 1929 colonial-era treaty with Britain.

Egypt's subsequent 1959 deal with Sudan gave the two downstream countries more than 90 percent control of Nile waters.

Ethiopia inked the CFA deal in May 2010, and its ratification by parliament comes amid rising tensions between Addis Ababa and Cairo over Ethiopia's diversion of the Blue Nile. 

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has warned that "all options are open" regarding the dam, but Ethiopia insists it will not go to war with its fellow neighbouring country, dismissing Morsi's words as "empty and violent rhetoric."

On several occasions, the Morsi administration has pledged to repair Egypt's damaged relations with its African counterparts. Such hopes, however, appear to have been dealt a serious setback in the wake unguarded statements made at a meeting between Morsi and political figures early this month.

Walking into the meeting unaware that the event was being aired on live television, Egyptian figures from across the political spectrum candidly spoke their minds, with many making what were seen by as offensive suggestions as to how to deal with the ongoing controversy over Ethiopia's dam projectMorsi's speech later added fuel to the fire.

Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile last month, paving the way for the construction of the $4.2 billion (3.2 billion Euro) Grand Renaissance Dam, set to become Africa's largest hydroelectric dam when completed.

The Horn of Africa country has pledged to press ahead with the dam, despite Egypt's fury.

Due to its Mubarak-era foreign policies, which neglected relations with African nations, Egypt over the last three decades has barely been regarded by most African states as part of the continent.

The Blue Nile provides Egypt with the lion's share of its annual allotment of 55 billion cubic metres of Nile River water.

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