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Ethiopia freezes Nile agreement

CAIRO: Ethiopia has agreed to suspend its participation in a Nile Water Share agreement recently signed with several upstream countries. According to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi this move will allow Egypt enough time to recover from the recent political crisis and take on a more active role in the negotiations.

This announcement comes while a 48-member Egyptian delegation is currently visiting Addis Ababa. The delegation includes several political representatives, activists, judges and three future presidential candidates.

The so-called Entebbe agreement signed by Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya and Rwanda, and aims to revert two 1929 and 1959 colonial rulings bestowing Egypt with 90 percent of Nile Water Share, in front of its 0 percent contribution to the river’s flow.

While the Egyptian Nile Valley is mostly desert, causing massive evaporation, Ethiopian tributaries to the river make up more than 85 percent of the Nile’s flow to Aswan in southern Egypt.

Secretary of the Egyptian al-Wafd party and head of the delegation Mustafa al-Guindi welcomed Ethiopia’s decision to freeze the agreement, adding that the delegation received similar assurances from Ugandan Prime Minister Museveni during a prior visit to that country.

Ethiopia will allow Egypt to elect a new government and announce an official stand on the matter.

The statement aims to relax diplomatic stances between Ethiopia and Egypt. Tension has been mounting since Ethiopia abruptly declared its plan to build the so-called Renaissance Dam and swiftly inaugurated work on the project on April 2.

Anonymous sources told Bikya Masr that Ethiopia decided to come out into the open with the project, only after the thorough completion of the planning stage, in order to avoid downstream interference in a project strongly supported by the Ethiopian administration.

In fact, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak vehemently opposed the construction of development projects in Ethiopia in the past, particularly blaming the lack of water availability in the Nile Valley on upstream countries.

Now things are about to change.

“Delegates told us they will not object Ethiopia’s development projects anymore,” said Speaker of the Ethiopian House of Peoples Abadula Gemeda. “We have also reassured them that Ethiopia’s project will cause no damage on any of the riparian countries including Egypt.”

According Ethiopian Water and Energy Minister Almayehu Tegenu, the dam will cause no harm to downstream countries, as hydroelectric plants affect “only slightly the amount of water flows.”

Moreover, Ethiopia assured the 5,000 MW hydroelectric plant will provide Egypt and Sudan with cheap and reliable energy, putting the basis for a solid, long-standing relation between countries of the region.

“Creating mutual trust will enable the two countries to surmount the little misunderstanding that exist in the psyche of our Egyptian brothers,” a member of the Ethiopian delegation told Walta Information Center.

Following more relaxed relations between the two countries, Ethiopian Foreign minister Hailemariam Desalegn reversed a previous decision to impede an Egyptian delegation to visit the site of the project.

Egyptian prime Minister Essam Sharaf will be visiting Ethiopia on the 13th and 14th of May as part of a visit to several other riparian countries.


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