Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ethiopia, Egypt in war of words over dam talks' impasse

By Beyene Geda

Ethiopia and Egypt have exchanged harsh words over stalled talks on Addis Ababa's proposed construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River, which Cairo says threatens its water security.

An Egyptian delegation, led by Irrigation minister, Mohamed Abdel-Muttalib, was in Addis Ababa and met with Ethiopian Minister of Water and Energy, Alemayehu Tegenu, to discuss Ethiopia's multi-billion dollar hydroelectric dam project on the Nile River.
They came here to talk only about two items [...] without giving a chance for discussion for what we have to say
But the talks failed to progress, as the two parties were stuck on what to be included on the agenda.
Egypt feels the construction of the dam upstream will affect water security, while Ethiopia says wants to construct the dam for its ambitious hydropower project.
The Ethiopian minister, Tegenu lashed out at Egypt after the talks failed to cover meaningful ground.
"They came here to talk only about two items on the agenda they prepared for the meeting, without giving a chance for discussion for what we have to say," he said.
During the meeting, the Egyptian delegation reportedly expressed keen interest in discussing the "principles of confidence-building", a document that requests Ethiopia to "respect" Sudan and Egypt's water security.
Tegenu further said Egypt had sought to include international experts on this committee, but Ethiopia and Sudan said they saw no need for more representatives than those already there.
Ethiopia requested Cairo to refrain from what it described as repeated public misinformation campaigns about the dam, as temperatures continue to flare over the project.
Last week, Muttalib suggested that Ethiopia build two smaller dams to ensure there is as little impact as possible on the Nile, drawing the ire of Addis Ababa.
On the other hand the Egyptian delegation is fuming at what it sees as obstinacy from their Ethiopian counterparts.
Muttalib was quoted saying; "all suggestions by the Egyptian delegation to solve sticking points were met with unjustified rejection, reaching the level of obstinacy".
He also accused Ethiopia of failing to look at issue at hand with sufficient "attention and seriousness".
Egypt sources almost all its water from the Nile and is worried that construction of the dam will reduce the flow of the river and affect water security, whereas 86% of the Nile's source is in Ethiopia and Addis Ababa feels it also has the right to use the water for its economic needs.
The contentious Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is set to be completed in three years' time with Ethiopia touting it as Africa's biggest.

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