New Round of Talks on Nile Waters Starts in Sudan’s Capital

Irrigation ministers of three key Nile Basin countries were meeting Friday in Sudan’s capital, seeking to resolve differences over Ethiopia’s soon-to-be-finished Blue Nile dam, which Cairo claims threatens its water supply.

According to the spokesman of Egypt’s irrigation ministry, Muhamed El-Sebai, the meeting of the ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia would last two days.

Egypt fears Ethiopia’s $5 billion project, which is set to be Africa’s largest hydraulic dam, could reduce its share of the Nile River, a lifeline for Egypt’s 100 million people.

Ethiopia has roughly the same population and says the dam will help its economic development. Egypt seeks Sudan’s support in the dispute, as both nations are downriver from the project.

Ethiopia has not revealed how quickly it wants to fill the reservoir created by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as the project is called, which would affect the amount of water available for Egypt and Sudan.

The last round of talks held in Cairo last month failed to make any progress and was followed by a verbal feuds between Ethiopian and Egyptian governments. Ethiopia’s foreign ministry released a strongly-worded proposal dismissing Egypt’s proposals on a timetable for filling the reservoir.

Ethiopia’s minister of water and irrigation, Sileshi Bekele, had said that Egypt wants Ethiopia to fill the dam’s reservoir over a longer period of time _ seven years _ and to release 40 billion cubic meters of water every year.

However, an Egyptian official later told The Associated Press the two countries had agreed the first of five stages for filling the dam should take two years. After these five stages, all the dam’s hydroelectric turbines would be able to operate.

Otherwise, Egypt could lose more than 1 million jobs and $1.8 billion annually, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi brought the issue to U.N. attention while addressing the General Assembly in New York last month.

While we acknowledge Ethiopia’s right to development, the water of the Nile is a question of life, a matter of existence to Egypt,” el-Sissi said, calling on the international community to play a constructive role in urging all parties to show flexibility in the pursuit of a solution that satisfies all.”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Thursday that the U.S. supports Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan’s ongoing negotiations to reach a sustainable and mutually beneficial agreement.

All Nile Valley countries have a right to economic development and prosperity,” Grisham said. The administration calls on all sides to put forth good faith efforts to reach an agreement that preserves those rights, while simultaneously respecting each other’s Nile water equities.”

Source: Voice of America