AFP Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Egypt’s top diplomat is to visit Addis Ababa Tuesday to discuss controversial Ethiopian plans to build a dam on the Nile that Cairo fears will impact its water supplies, his ministry said Monday.

Construction of the massive dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia has poisoned relations between the two countries, as Egypt fears its share of water from the Nile will be hit once the project is completed.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s visit to Addis Ababa is “a new Egyptian move aiming to break the deadlock” in talks with Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Renaissance Dam, foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said.

The three countries have yet to approve a May report on the social and environmental impacts of the dam’s construction on downstream countries Sudan and Egypt.

Egypt, which is almost totally reliant on the Nile for irrigation and drinking water, says it has “historic rights” to the Nile, guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959.

Cairo argues that the treaties grant it 87 percent of the river’s flow, as well as the power to veto upstream projects.

The Blue and the White Nile tributaries converge in Sudan’s capital Khartoum and from there run north through Egypt to the Mediterranean.

The dam is designed to feed a hydroelectric project that would produce 6,000 megawatts of power — equivalent to six nuclear-powered plants.

Ethiopia began building the dam in 2012 and initially expected to commission it in 2017.

Ethiopian media reports say that only about 60 percent of the construction has so far been completed.
Egypt’s foreign minister to head to Ethiopia after Nile dam talks stall

Reuters, Cairo Sunday, 24 December 2017

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will visit Addis Ababa next week for talks with his Ethiopian counterpart, a foreign ministry spokesman said, in a bid to end a standoff over a multi-billion-dollar dam project on the Nile river.

The dispute, which also involves Sudan, centers on control of a share of the waters of the Nile that stretches 6,695 km (4,184 miles) from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean and is the economic lifeblood of all three countries.

Cairo says the dam would threaten water supplies that have fed Egypt’s agriculture and economy for thousands of years.

Ethiopia says the Grand Renaissance Dam, which it hopes will help make it Africa’s largest power exporter, will have no major effect on Egypt. It accuses Cairo of flexing its political muscle to deter financiers from backing other Ethiopian power projects.

Delegations from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia met in Cairo in November to approve a study by a French firm commissioned to assess the dam’s environmental and economic impact.

But negotiations stalled when they failed to agree on the initial report with each blaming others for blocking progress.

Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Moataz Moussa said Egypt was unwilling to accept amendments to the report put forward by Khartoum and Addis Ababa.

Sudan and Ethiopia had expressed concern over several points, especially the proposed baseline from which the study would measure the dam’s impacts, Moussa said in November.

Another source of disagreement is whether Ethiopia plans to complete construction before negotiations over water flows have finished.

“It’s clear they don’t want to reach conclusions quickly. We believe they probably want to start filling the dam and complete construction while there are still some ongoing discussions,” said Mahmoud Abou Zeid, Arab Water Council Chair and former Egyptian irrigation minister.

He said this would violate an agreement signed by all three countries in Khartoum in 2015 meant to ensure diplomatic cooperation and stem fears of a resource conflict.

Cairo fears the 6,000-megawatt dam, being built by Italy’s largest construction firm, Salini Impregilo SpA, and due for completion next year, will reduce the flow it depends on for drinking water and irrigation.

Egyptian officials say safeguarding the country’s quota of Nile water is a matter of national security.

“No one can touch Egypt’s water … it means life or death for a population,” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said last month.