Minister says Ethiopia dam negotiations satisfying

Negotiations in Khartoum, Sudan on the Ethiopian dam have been satisfying thus far, an Egyptian official told the state-run Middle East News Agency on Monday. 

Hossam Moghazy, the minister of water resources and irrigation, told MENA that the first day of negotiations on Monday went well. Meetings ran for six hours where contentious issues regarding the dam were discussed. More sessions are expected on Tuesday, after which a final statement on the outcome of the negotiations will be issued. 

The meeting, which is attended by ministers of irrigation from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, is the fourth in a round of negotiations on the Ethiopian dam. The fourth round, according to the independent Aswat Masreya website, focused on the formation of a technical committee from the three countries, the drawing of a roadmap for its work, the discussion of studies undertaken on the project and the implementation of the recommendations put forward by another international committee that was formed earlier on. 

The other three rounds of negotiations were not successful, former Minister of Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Meteleb claimed, citing Ethiopian intransigence as a major obstacle.

“Egypt ensures that the Nile basin is a lifeline for collaboration and not a site of conflict and stress,” Moghazy was quoted as saying by Aswat Masreya. He added that he is ready to support Ethiopia in its quest for economic development and Nile river management in a fair and balanced manner, and one that is not detrimental to any party. 

The Renaissance Dam is an Ethiopian national project that began in 2011, estimated to cost US$4.2 billion and set to be the largest in Africa and the 10th largest producer of electricity in the world, upon its completion in 2017. The digging of the project started in May 2013. Situated 40 kilometers from the Sudanese border on the Blue Nile that provides Egypt with 86 percent of its water, the project has raised concerns by Egypt. Threatened with a diminishing water access, Egypt began diplomatic efforts at times and issued aggressive statements at others against Ethiopia, including a veiled threat of a military operation sent by former President Mohamed Morsi.   

But Ethiopia has countered these concerns using the statements of a 10-person International Tripartite Commission that includes international experts, Egyptians, Sudanese and Ethiopians. The commission had said that the dam will not affect Egypt’s access to water. 

In this round of negotiations, Ethiopian Water Minister Alemayehu Tegenu was also quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse that the dam project would not have any major consequences on Egypt and Sudan’s downstream.

Egypt has claimed “historic rights” to the Nile as per two treaties signed in 1929 and 1959, which gives it veto power over upstream projects.

But a 2010 Nile Basin pact challenged this power by giving upstream countries the right to conduct the project without Egypt’s authorization. Egypt withdrew from the Nile Basin Initiative in objection.

Many hydrologists have mentioned that the risks of the Renaissance dam on Egypt are minimal and can be countered through cooperation and joint management. Their argument is that the dam is not designed to hold large amounts of water, but rather to generate power through the water passage.

Egypt is expected to experience water stress by 2050. Fears of climate change affecting the Nile river flow also heightened Egypt’s concerns.