Ethiopia and Egypt cooled talk of war on Tuesday and agreed to more dialogue to resolve a row over a giant dam that the Horn of Africa nation is building on the Nile, on which Egyptians depend on for almost all their water.
Africa’s second and third most populous nations have traded barbs in past weeks about Ethiopia’s new hydroelectric project, which Egypt fears will reduce a water supply vital for its 84 million people, who mostly live in the Nile valley and delta.
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said, on June 10, he did not want war, but would keep “all options open”, prompting Ethiopia to say it was ready to defend its $4.7 billion Great Renaissance Dam, which lies near the border with Sudan.
Ethiopia summoned the Egyptian ambassador this month after politicians in Cairo were shown on television suggesting they supported Ethiopian rebels and military action.
“Some pronouncements were made in the heat of the moment because of emotions. They are behind us,” Mohamed Kamel Amr, Egypt’s foreign minister, told a joint news conference with his Ethiopian counterpart Tedros Adhanom in Ethiopia’s capital.
An Ethiopian diplomat said another round of talks would be held between ministers and experts in a few weeks.
The two ministers also agreed that further studies would be carried out on the impact of the dam after Egypt said it was dissatisfied with an earlier technical report and said it wanted more details before work continued.
Adhanom said consultations would take place without halting construction of the dam, which is being built by private Italian firm, Salini Costruttori.
“I would like to assure our Egyptian brothers and sisters that, as we have been doing, we will address the security concerns of Egypt and Sudan,” said Adhanom.
Egypt, whose population uses almost all of the Nile water available to it, cites a 1929 pact which entitled Cairo to 55.5 billion cubic metres a year of the Nile’s flow of around 84 billion cubic metres.
Ethiopia and five other upstream Nile states, such as Kenya and Uganda, say those claims are outdated and have signed a deal effectively stripping Cairo of its veto based on colonial-era treaties over dam projects on the river.