AFP | 25 March, 2015 09:05
The leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia promised Tuesday to boost cooperation on the Nile river and turn a page on a long-running row over Addis Ababa’s controversial dam project.
he meeting between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn came the day after the two, along with Sudan, signed an agreement of principles on Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project.
“The agreement… represents a positive step on the right path. We’re not going to waste any more time,” Sisi, making his first visit to Ethiopia, told reporters.
The comments marked a radical change of tone compared to Sisi’s predecessor Mohamed Morsi, who in June 2013 warned that “all options are open” in dealing with Ethiopia’s alleged theft of Nile water.
Egypt, heavily reliant for millennia on the Nile for agriculture and drinking water, feared that the Grand Renaissance Dam would decrease its water supply.
However Sisi said in Khartoum that Egypt has “chosen cooperation, and to trust one another for the sake of development”.
“The most important progress we achieved is the political will and the commitment from both sides to keep this momentum. There will be no going back,” Ethiopia’s premier also told reporters on Tuesday.
Officials said the accord in Khartoum covered the “fair use of waters”, with the signatories promising “not to damage the interests of other states”.
They also agreed to establish a mechanism to resolve future disputes.
Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile in May 2013 to build the 6,000 MW dam, which will be Africa’s largest when completed in 2017. The project to construct the 1,780-metre-long and 145-metre high dam will cost an estimated $4 billion.
Ethiopia had said that the project would not adversely affect Egypt’s share of the precious waters, but Egypt had maintained its “historic rights” to the Nile which it said were guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959 which grant it 87 percent of the river’s flow, as well as the power to veto upstream projects.