Home | News    Sunday 14 March 2004

Nile Basin countries mull first water treaty: Egyptian minister

CAIRO, March 13 (AFP) — The 10 African countries of the Nile Basin are considering their first common treaty on the sharing and management of the river’s water resources, the Egyptian water minister said.

"All the treaties among the countries of the Nile Basin were agreed between certain states and not by all the countries. The first overall treaty is in the process of being studied in the framework of the Nile Basin Initiative," Mahmud Abu Zeid told the Akhbar Al-Yom weekly.

"It would, for the first time, be a treaty to which all the Nile Basin countries would belong," Zeid said.

The Nile Basin Initiative, a regional cooperation agreement launched in 1999 to develop the river basin, groups Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Zeid said negotiations were underway among the member countries to formulate "the institutional and legal framework" of the treaty, noting a proposal aimed at creating a "joint committee to manage the Nile."

Experts from the 10 countries adjourned talks in Uganda Friday on how to share the water without reaching agreement, officials said.

The Egyptian minister also emphasized his country’s non-negotiable "historic rights" on the Nile, and insisted it would not participate in negotiations aimed at reducing its water share.

Egypt clings to treaties signed with Britain in 1929 and 1959 which restrict other basin states, many of which were then British colonies, from undertaking projects that reduce the volume of water flowing to Egypt.