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Egypt PM to visit Ethiopia, re-establishing “key role” in Africa

May 9, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) – A scheduled visit of Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, to Ethiopia this week will mark Egypt’s return as key role player in Africa and opens a new chapter in ties with the continent, Egypt’s Ambassador in Ethiopia Tareq Ghoneim said on Monday.

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Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on March 4, 2011 a day after he was named to the post (Getty)

Ethiopia’s ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson, Dina Mufti, told Sudan Tribune that Sharaf, along with other senior officials will arrive in Addis Ababa this week for talks over the long-running dispute between upstream countries at the source of the Nile and downstream countries over access to and usage of the water.

Sharaf has been prime minister of Egypt since 3 March 2011. After the uprising of the Egyptian people against the government of Hosni Mubarak, Essam was asked by Egypt’s governing military council to form a government.

Sharaf’s visit to Addis Ababa ushers in Egypt’s restoration of its key role in Africa after the January 25 revolution’’ Ghoneim was quoted by the official Middle East News Agency (MENA) as saying.

Egypt last week sent a 48-member popular public diplomacy delegation to Addis Ababa that reflected a new spirit in Egypt’s relationship with Ethiopia and the countries of the Nile Basin to end the row over the Nile.

The Egyptian premier’s visit to Ethiopia, an extension of the group’s visit last week, intends to follow-up progress and strengthen the ties with Ethiopia; the major player in reversing the colonial-era treaties.

Sharaf will meet Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to discuss bilateral issues especially related to the Nile water quota. A number of bilateral agreements are expected to be signed between the two countries.

"During the visit trade deals will be signed between the commercial chambers of both countries in order to boost the volume of trade and investment between the two countries," Ambassador Ghoneim said.

Following the Egyptian popular public diplomacy delegation visit last week, Ethiopia agreed to postpone ratification of the new treaty which six upper riparian states have signed in protest to the colonial-era pact that gave Egypt and Sudan rights to use 90 per cent of the Nile’s water resources.

Ethiopian officials said the delay is a goodwill gesture to allow Egypt to form a new government after the fall of Mubarak’s in a popular uprising earlier this year.

Ethiopia argues that the US$4.78 billion mega dam it intends to build along its share of the Nile, near the Sudanese border will benefit the countries downstream with a better regulated water flow, will increase the electrical capacity of the region and will lower water-loss due to evaporation.

(ST)