Latest Renaissance Dam talks commence in Khartoum
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam - AFP

CAIRO: Tripartite talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over Ethiopia’s controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam resumed Monday in Khartoum after being stalled for eight months, with all sides highlighting the necessity of carrying out recommendations concerning the reservoir and safety levels of the dam.

The resumption in talks followed a meeting between Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the sidelines of the 23rd African Union (AU) Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on June 26, Al-Ahram reported.

Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hosam Moghazy said Monday that all parties have concerns over the effects of the dam, according to a statement issued from the ministry.

“I think all of us, friends and brothers, have concerns over the effects building and filling the dam will have on downstream states (Egypt and Sudan),” the minister said during the opening session of the talks.

Moghazy said the Nile River should be a source of cooperation not dispute, noting that Egypt will not be against the development of the Nile Basin as long as it takes into consideration mutual benefits and interests, and not the interests of just one country at the expense of another.

Moghazy headed the Egyptian delegation in Khartoum, which included a number of Nile water technical experts, and representatives from the Foreign Ministry in what will be a two-day visit.

“Egypt is looking forward to the right of its people to live. It has basically depended on Nile water since the dawn of history,” Moghazy said, adding that Egypt could face drought and water shortages due to ill effects from the Renaissance Dam’s construction.

“As you know there is a need to conduct studies according to the recommendations of the final report that was issued by the international committee,” he continued.

In July 2011, the three countries formed a tripartite committee of technical experts to evaluate the effects of the dam. The committee’s final report published in May 2013 stated that the dam would have “significant benefits” to the downstream states and it was being conducted under international standards. However, Egypt disputed the report’s findings.

The Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Alamayo Nugnu said Monday that his country is not trying to cause any harm to Egypt and Sudan, and echoing the 2011 report, said the dam could benefit all countries if they agreed to carry out expert recommendations, MENA reported.

Nugnu added during the session that his country would implement recommendations concerning the reservoir and safety, and said the dam would benefit the Ethiopian people as it would help reduce the poverty rate.

According to a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued Thursday, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will visit Ethiopia after the Khartoum talks.

Negotiations were originally to be held Aug. 16 and 17 in Khartoum. However, the Ethiopian government sent Egypt a request asking for a delay in negotiations, state news agency MENA reported.

Egypt on May 5 issued a report warning that building the dam, which is expected to be operational in 2017, could shrink Egypt’s share of Nile water by 12 billion cubic meters, Al-Ahram reported.

According to the Entebbe Agreement, four Nile Basin states (Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia) should take a larger share of Nile water, which would affect both Sudan and Egypt. The latter two countries currently receive 90 percent of Nile water as dictated by a treaty signed by all Nile Basin country member states in 1929, BBC reported May 14.

Construction of the Renaissance Dam sparked controversy between Ethiopia and Egypt when it began during the reign of former President Mohamed Morsi. As reported widely in media and made available on YouTube by Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party, Morsi said in a speech at the Popular Conference on Egypt’s Rights to Nile Water in June 2013 that if Egypt’s share of Nile water decreases, “Egyptians’ blood will be the alternative.”

Additional reporting by Ghada Atef

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