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Egypt, Ethiopia agree to further talks

18 June 2013, 12:02

Addis Ababa - Ethiopia and Egypt have agreed to hold further talks on the impact of an Ethiopian dam to quell tensions between the two countries, the foreign ministers of both nations said on Tuesday.

"We agreed that we will start immediately on consultations at both the technical level... and the political level," Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr told reporters, after meetings in Addis Ababa with his Ethiopian counterpart Tedros Adhanom.

The countries have been embroiled in a heated row after Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile River last month for the construction of the 6000 MW Grand Renaissance Dam.

Concerned over how the dam could impact downstream water levels, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi warned that "all options are open" over its construction.

But Amr and Tedros said that relations between the countries remain "brotherly" and that they will continue talks on the impact of the dam.

Amr said that previous statements had been made "in the heat of the moment."

"Both ministers stressed the need to continue the dialogue and communication with each other," they said in a joint statement.

"We have two options, either to swim or sink together. I think Ethiopia chooses, and so does Egypt, to swim together," Tedros said.

An international panel has issued a report outlining the dam's impact on water levels.

The report has not been made public, but Ethiopia has said the report confirms that the impact on water levels are minimal.

Controversial treaty

"[We agreed to] ask for further studies to ascertain the effects of the dam, not only the safety of the dam, the environmental effects, but also the effects of the dam on the downstream countries," Amr said, adding that consultations involve Sudan as well as Ethiopia and Egypt.

Egypt relies on the Nile River for 86% of its water, and has said the construction of the dam is a security concern.

Ethiopia's parliament ratified a controversial treaty last week ensuring its access to Nile water resources, replacing a colonial-era agreement that granted Egypt and Sudan the majority of water rights.

The new deal allows upstream countries to implement irrigation and hydropower projects without first seeking Egypt's approval.

Ethiopia is building the $4.2bn Grand Renaissance Dam in order to generate electricity for export to neighbouring countries, including Kenya and Djibouti.

Set to be complete in 2017, it is slated to become Africa's biggest hydroelectric dam and is being funded entirely from internal resources. 

The Blue Nile joins the White Nile in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to form the Nile, which then flows through Egypt.



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