Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr (Photo courtesy of Foreign Ministry official website)
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia will start negotiations on recommendations by a technical committee on the Ethiopian Nile dam project, a joint statement by Egypt and Ethiopia's foreign ministers said on Tuesday.
The foreign and water resources ministers of the three countries are expected to start negotiations on the political and technical aspects of Nile water division, read the statement.
Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom has also accepted his Egyptian counterpart's invitation to visit Egypt soon.
The statement comes as Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr's visit to Addis Ababa comes to a close. On Tuesday Amr will travel to Sudan, where he is expected to meet President Omar Al-Bashir in Khartoum to discuss the results of his meeting in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia's planned $4.2 billion hydro-electric dam on the Blue Nile has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government, with fears that the project, if completed, could negatively impact the volume of Nile water reaching Egypt. Sudan, which like Egypt is downstream, could also be affected by the dam.
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 divided the Nile waters between the two countries, with Egypt taking 55.5 billion cubic metres of a total of 74 billion, after evaporation.
In the statement, the Ethiopian foreign minister said that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will not affect Egypt's share of water, emphasising that Ethiopia is committed to ensuring benefit for all those involved.
He also said that the dam will mainly be used for energy-generation purposes, not irrigation, which could reduce downstream water flow.
In addition, the statement said that Egypt and Ethiopia are keen on consolidating their relationship and continuing open talks on the challenges they face as African countries, especially with regards to Nile water issues.
Egypt and Ethiopia engaged in a sharp exchange of words after Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile in order to construct the new dam.
In a press conference on Monday, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abd-Elaty said that Egyptian and Ethiopian officials agreed that negative public opinion, encouraged by the media, has worsened the dispute over the dam.
They stressed the need to end the charged rhetoric of recent weeks and find a political solution instead.
According to Egypt's National Planning Institute, Egypt will require an additional 21 billion cubic metres of water per year by 2050, on top of its current annual allotment of 55 billion cubic metres, to meet the needs of a projected population of 150 million.