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Ethiopia, Egypt vow to resolve Nile water dispute

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March 24, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – The leaders of Ethiopia and Egypt on Tuesday vowed to take serious steps to peacefully resolve the long-standing dispute over the use of Nile water resources.

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Egyptian president Fattah al-Sisi (L) and Ethiopian prime minister Hilemariam Desalegn shake hands after the press conference at the national palace on 24 March 2015 in Addis Ababa (Photo: AP/Mulugeata Ayene)

Visiting Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi held talks on Tuesday with Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn at the presidential palace in Addis Ababa where they discussed ways to further deepen bilateral ties.

Talks between the two leaders come a day after they signed a tripartite agreement in Khartoum along with Sudan’s president Omer Hassan al-Bashir on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

This is the first official state visit to Ethiopia by an Egyptian leader in 30 years, with the Ethiopian premier hailing it as a major diplomatic achievement.

The Egyptian president will conclude his three-day visit by addressing the Ethiopian parliament on Wednesday, Sudan Tribune has learnt.

At a press conference following their meeting, Desalegn and al-Sisi told reporters that they have agreed to set up a new joint commission at the ministerial level which would be tasked with studying concerns from lower riparian countries particularly from Egypt over Ethiopia’s dam project.

The Ethiopian premier said he is prepared to hold direct talks with al-Sisi at least once a year to build confidence and mutual understanding with Cairo over the multi-billion dollar hydro power project which the north African nation fears it would diminish its historic water share.

“The high level meeting that we just agreed upon will enable us to work on issues without losing the momentum,” said Desalegn.

Egypt’s al-Sisi said the establishment of the new Egypt-Ethiopian commission will enhance mutual confidence and remove uncertainty with regard to the Ethiopia’s massive dam project.

“Egyptian people had open minds and hearts not just because of their historic ties and close cultural relations with Ethiopia but also because of their desire to transform relations into a state of trust and confidence,” he said.

However, al-Sisi stressed that despite achievements gained there still remains a lot to be accomplished between the two countries.

The Egyptian president has also hold talks with his Ethiopian counterpart, Mulatu Tosheme.

During the meeting, Tosheme commended Cairo’s new move to deepen all rounded ties with Ethiopia.

“By working hard we can change suspicion and misunderstanding into mutual cooperation trust and confidence,” said Tosheme.

He further underscored that Ethiopia’s construction of the dam was never meant to harm Egypt.

“The project is purely for power generation,” Tosheme said. “Ethiopia is committed to green development and this would benefit for Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan,” he added.

While Cairo has asserted that the accord serves as a preliminary step to ensuring that Egypt is not adversely impacted by the dam, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) movement described it as “high treason”.

MB spokesman Mohamed Montasir said the agreement does not compel Ethiopia to respect Egypt’s “historical rights” and lacks the basics of international law.

Ethiopia is 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.

Egypt insists that its "historic rights" to the Nile are guaranteed by two treaties from 1929 and 1959 which allow it 87% of the Nile’s flow and gives it veto power over upstream projects.

But a new deal signed by other Nile Basin countries, including Ethiopia, allows them to work on river projects without Cairo’s prior agreement.

Both Sudan and Egypt have not signed the new Nile Basin deal.

Sudan also relies on Nile resources but has said it does not expect to be affected by the dam.

(ST)

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