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Nile water countries sign framework deal on Renaissance Dam

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March 23, 2015 (KHARTOUM/ADDIS ABABA) – The leaders of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt signed in Khartoum on Monday an initial cooperation deal on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

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Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi (L), Sudanese president Omer al-Bashir (C) and Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn shake hands during a meeting in Khartoum on 23 March 2015 on the planned Grand Renaissance dam (Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP)

The leaders said the “declaration of principles” would pave the way for further diplomatic cooperation on the GERD which has stirred fears of a regional resource conflict.

No details of the agreement were immediately released.

Egypt fears the dam will negatively affect its traditional share of water from the Nile, its only source of water which has been determined by a colonial-era water-sharing treaty.

Ethiopia, the source of about 85% of the Nile’s water, mainly through rainfall in its highlands, with over 90% of Egyptians relying on water from the Nile’s flows, insists that the project is indispensable to its own national development and the economic welfare of its burgeoning population.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, affirmed in his remarks during the signing ceremony that GERD will not cause any harm to downstream countries, Sudan and Egypt.

He underscored that Ethiopia is committed to cooperate with the Nile Basin countries, saying Sudan and Egypt will also benefit from GERD.

Desalegn said water projects in Ethiopia aims to achieve sustainable development, pointing those projects are environment friendly.

He also pointed to the trust that has grown among Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt during the talks on GERD.

Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, for his part, said that “Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt are inaugurating a new era of love and trust which will secure life, future and prosperity of the peoples of the three nations”.

He stressed his country’s dependence on Nile waters, saying he told Ethiopia’s prime minister that “You will develop and grow and I am with you, but be aware that in Egypt the people live only on the water that comes from this river”.

He pointed the declaration of principles must be followed by the signing of detailed agreements on the outstanding issues particularly the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

Al-Sisi further expressed his pride over what he called the “historic moment”, saying “I promise you, we will all dream of well-being and prosperity to launch a comprehensive development project.”

Sudan’s president, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, described the signing of the declaration of principles as “unprecedented historic achievement in the eternal relations among the three nations”.

He added the agreement lays the foundation for building trust and cooperation among the three nations, saying that national interests should not come at the expense of regional interests.

Bashir expressed hope the agreement will pave the way for cooperation among the Nile Basin countries on the NBI, affirming that detailed agreement on outstanding issues will be reached in order not to harm interests of the three nations.

The agreement provides that the three countries shall commit to the recommendations of the consultancy firm which will be tasked with assessing the likely impact of the GERD on Sudan and Egypt.

The three countries had earlier formed a committee to select a consultancy firm to evaluate the likely impact of the GERD on Sudan and Egypt. Four consultancy firms from France, Australia and Holland had earlier been shortlisted and invited to submit their proposals.

The principles in the agreement include giving priority to downstream countries for electricity generated by the dam, a mechanism for resolving conflicts, and providing compensation for damages.

The three leaders were supposed to hold a press conference following the signing of the agreement but it was cancelled without giving reasons.

SISI VISITS ADDIS ABABA

Egyptian president Abdel Fettah al-Sisi has arrived in Addis Ababa Monday after he attended the signing ceremony in Khartoum on declaration of principles to resolve dispute on Ethiopia’s controversial Nile dam project.

Upon his arrival at Addis Ababa’s Bole international Airport al Sisi was warmly welcomed by Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn who himself was in Khartoum earlier for the signing ceremony.

During his three day official visit in Addis Ababa, Al sisi is expected to hold talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn and Ethiopian president Mulatu Tosheme on a range of bilateral issues.

On Tuesday, al-Sisi will also deliver speech at the Ethiopian parliament where he is believed to highlight boosting various areas of cooperation between Egypt and Ethiopia.

(ST)

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
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