Irrigation minister denies reports of deadlock in Ethiopia talks

Ahram Online , Wednesday 12 Feb 2014

Returning from one-day trip to Ethiopian capital, Egypt's irrigation minister insists talks will continue to reach a resolution on Ethiopia's proposed Grand Renaissance Dam, set to be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa

Renaissance Dam
Ethiopia's Great Renaissance Dam in Guba Woreda, some 40 km (25 miles) from Ethiopia's border with Sudan, June 28, 2013 (Photo: Reuters )

Egypt's irrigation minister has insisted that discussions with Ethiopia over its proposed hydroelectric dam are still in progress, despite recent media reports announcing that the negotiations between Cairo and Addis Ababa had failed.

Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported on Wednesday that irrigation minister Mohamed Abdel-Motteleb said in a cabinet meeting that efforts are still being spent on reaching an agreement that responds to Egypt's concerns about the dam and that the final status of the negotiations will be announced when they end.

Abdel-Motelleb returned from Addis Ababa on Tuesday after a one-day visit with Ethiopia's water and energy minister Alemayehu Tegenu. 

An Egyptian irrigation ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that both sides had agreed on the need for more studies but that Ethiopia was being "stubborn" in refusing to allow international experts to evaluate the dam's potential effects, according to Al-Ahram's daily Arabic newspaper.

Abdel-Motelleb claims Ethiopia withdrew its previous agreement on this point and has since threatened to escalate the issue at international institutions. 

Ahead of the talks, however, Abdel-Motteleb announced that Egypt's position on Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam was "fixed," a harbinger that Monday's negotiations would likely not offer the kind of compromise that Ethiopia was hoping for. 

According to Al-Ahram, Motteleb said that Ethiopia could still achieve economic prosperity without impeding upon Egypt's access to the Nile.

When completed, the $4.2 billion dam will be the largest in Africa and number 10 in the world in terms of electricity production.

The two countries have been locked in a political feud since news of the dam was first aired on Egyptian TV in 2013, with Cairo arguing that the project will diminish its supply of the river's water. 

Last June Ethiopia's parliament ratified an international treaty granting upstream countries the right to implement irrigation and hydropower projects without seeking Egypt's approval. 

For decades, Egypt held veto rights over all upstream projects thanks to a 1929 colonial-era agreement in which the UK gave Egypt and Sudan the majority of the Nile's water rights. 

Several rounds of negotiations over the dam have already taken place between Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese water ministers in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum to study the dam's possible effects and try to generate consensus. 

However, the tripartite committee's success was thwarted last December when Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir announced his support for the dam during a meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

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