Egypt joins fresh talks over Ethiopia dam in Khartoum Saturday

Ahram Online, Saturday 4 Jan 2014

Irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia sound positive notes in talks over Ethiopia's contested Grand Renaissance Dam

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)

New tripartite talks over Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam opened Saturday in Khartoum. The talks are being attended by the irrigation ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan and are set to last for three days.

Egypt and Ethiopia have been at odds over the latter's Renaissance Dam project, which would be the largest hydropower plant in Africa and which Egypt fears will reduce its water supply from the Nile River.

Representatives of the three countries have met several times in recent months. The last meeting, also held in Khartoum, took place in early December. Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese irrigation ministers met for the first round of talks 4 November in Khartoum.

Egypt has demanded that Ethiopia submit construction plans for the dam for assessment by international experts.

In June, Ethiopia's parliament ratified a treaty allowing upstream countries to implement irrigation and hydropower projects without first seeking Egypt's approval. The deal replaces a colonial-era agreement formerly granting Egypt and Sudan the majority of Nile River water rights.

Progress can be made: Minister

In Saturday's meeting, Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abd El-Moteleb expressed in the opening session his hopes that the third round of talks would fulfil the aspirations of the people of Nile Basin countries for development and peace.

The minister stated that the last meeting in December achieved "acceptable results," indicating that the present meeting can build on previous results to achieve more progress, MENA reported.

Abd El-Moteleb also said that the meeting would discuss criteria for international experts to be chosen to assess the Ethiopian dam project, as well as formulating a document containing the principles of confidence building measures. 

Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Alamayo Tegno said his country is committed to the recommendations of an international committee of experts.

Tegno stated that the Grand Renaissance Dam represents a strategic priority for Ethiopia, as it have a vital role in eradicating poverty.

He also stated that the dam would have great and positive effects for Nile Basin countries, emphasising the need for cooperation and transparency during the tripartite talks.  

Sudanese Irrigation Minister Moatez Moussa said that the three countries share a sincere desire to achieve their people's ambitions, and that this should ground a spirit of cooperation and mutual trust during the talks.

Moussa expressed Sudan's commitment to achieving an agreement that satisfies all parties.

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