x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia Nile dam talks ‘successful’

Water ministers 'successfully' held talks on an Ethiopian dam project, Sudan’s minister said, despite initial objections from Egypt.

KHARTOUM // Water ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan “successfully” held talks on an Ethiopian dam project, Sudan’s minister said, despite initial objections from Egypt.

The meeting got off to a contentious start after the Egyptian delegation delayed the formation of a committee to implement expert advice.

Cairo fears the Grand Renaissance dam project could diminish its water supply.

“We have addressed a significant part of the issues on the follow-up of the implementation of the recommendations of the international panel of experts,” Muattaz Musa Abdallah Salim, Sudan’s water resources and electricity minister, said after yesterday’s talks which lasted several hours.

At a meeting in Khartoum last month, ministers from the three nations failed to agree on the composition of the committee which would follow through on expert recommendations about the project, Sudan’s foreign minister, Ali Karti, said.

The experts’ report has not been made public, but Ethiopia has said it confirms that the effect on water levels is minimal.

Cairo had sought more studies about the dam’s effect on its water supply, which is almost entirely dependent on the Nile.

Egypt wanted international representatives on the committee but Ethiopia preferred national delegates, Mr Karti said after the ministers’ first meeting in early November.

“We the ministers ... have concluded the second meeting successfully,” Mr Salim said.

Asked whether that meant the differences over the committee had been resolved, the Ethiopian minister Alemayehu Tegenu said: “Almost, yes.”

Mr Salim said “the remaining issues” would be addressed in Khartoum during talks from January 4-5.

Mr Salim headed to Monday’s meeting immediately after his midday swearing-in as a new member of President Omar Al Bashir’s reshuffled cabinet.

Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile in May to build the 6,000 megawatt dam which will be Africa’s largest when completed in three years.

Egypt believes its “historic rights” to the Nile are guaranteed by two treaties from 1929 and 1959 which allow it 87 per cent of the Nile’s flow and give it veto power over upstream projects.

But a new deal signed in 2010 by other Nile Basin countries, including Ethiopia, allows them to work on river projects without Cairo’s prior agreement.

Both Sudan and Egypt have not signed the new Nile Basin deal.

Sudan, like Egypt, relies on Nile resources but has said it does not expect to be affected by the Grand Renaissance project.

On Wednesday Sudan and Ethiopia inaugurated a cross-border electricity link which an analyst said aims to strengthen Khartoum-Addis Ababa ties after tensions with Egypt over the dam project.

* Agence France-Presse