Cairo, Khartoum cooperating on Nile issue: Sudanese FM

Ahram Online , Friday 5 Apr 2013

Sudanese foreign minister says President Morsi's trip to Khartoum will open door to increased bilateral cooperation between Arab neighbours

Morsi, Al-Bashir
This image released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Mohammed Morsi greeting dignitaries after Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, left, received him at the airport in Khartoum, Sudan, Thursday, April 4, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Cooperation between Egypt and Sudan over the Nile River is moving in a positive direction, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said on Thursday in comments reported by state news agency MENA.

On the sidelines of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's visit to Khartoum, Karti told reporters the visit would open new prospects for bilateral cooperation.

There had been tensions between the countries during the Mubarak era.

Sudan is an important ally for Egypt because of its agricultural potential and Egypt's need to secure an acceptable agreement with upstream Nile countries over vital water supplies.

Morsi's two-day visit is the first to Sudan since he was elected president last June. He is holding talks with his counterpart Omar Al-Bashir, along with business people and political party leaders.

According to AFP, Morsi's office said the visit had "particular importance because it is the first of its kind since the president took office, and is aimed at stressing the special and strong strategic relationship between Egypt and Sudan."

Cairo is keen to establish "a real economic partnership with Sudan, to meet the ambitions and goals of growth and prosperity for both peoples," it added.

Morsi's visit would "complete some issues that have already been agreed" when the two leaders held talks in Cairo last September, Bashir's press secretary said.

These include trade integration, transport, investment, and the "four freedoms" pact, which gives citizens of each country the right to freely enter and conduct economic activities in the other. It has not been fully implemented.

The Entebbe dilemma

Karti's comments on the Nile issue came one week after the two-year-old South Sudanese state announced joining the Cooperative Framework Agreement of the Nile Basin Countries, known as the Entebbe agreement.

“We joined the Nile Basin Initiative. We are on the way to joining the framework agreement, through which Nile Basin countries can discuss the best ways to use water sources,” Paul Mayom, South Sudan’s minister of water resources and irrigation, told a radio station on 26 March.

The Entebbe agreement was signed in April 2010 by Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, and then on 28 February 2011, Burundi became the sixth signatory.

Egypt, the main opponent of the deal, argues that a 1959 agreement, as well as another accord signed in 1929 under British rule, stipulate the approval of all Nile Basin states must be gained before the implementation of any water-utilisation projects.

Egyptian officials have said the new agreement by upstream counties does not affect the legal stance of Egypt and Sudan as downstream states.

However, the six countries that signed the Entebbe agreement reject such reasoning, and remind the Egyptians that the 1929 and 1959 agreements are "void and invalid" because they were written and ratified under British colonialism.

Egypt, which receives the largest portion of the Nile’s water, has rejected any deals that do not preserve its "historic rights."

Egypt's share of Nile waters is 51 billion square metres annually, according to a deal signed with Sudan on 1959, which gives the latter 18 billion square meters of water per year.

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