Egypt, Ethiopia ease tensions over Nile dam

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (left) greets Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. AFP
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (left) greets Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at the Presidential Palace in Cairo on January 18, 2018. The two leaders said they were united against conflict over Nile waters. PHOTO | AFP 

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said Thursday at talks in Cairo they were opposed to any “conflict” over the sharing of Nile waters.

Mr Sisi said that Mr Hailemariam’s visit was “a clear sign for our peoples and the entire world of our political will and determination to overcome all obstacles” between the two countries.

The Nile should serve as “a source of cohesion... and development, not of conflict” with Ethiopia, which is building a controversial dam that has raised Egyptian concerns over water supplies, he said.

“We agreed that we must make sure that this great river never becomes an object of competition, mistrust and conflict,” Mr Hailemariam told a joint news conference.

Mr Sisi said Ethiopia was not aiming “to harm the interests of Egypt”, while reiterating Cairo’s call for the World Bank to serve as a neutral interlocutor between the two countries on technical issues related to the Nile.

Egypt relies almost totally on the Nile for irrigation and drinking water, and says it has “historic rights” to the river, guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959.

Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile, launched in 2012, is designed to feed a hydroelectric project to produce 6,000 megawatts of power, equal to six nuclear-powered plants.

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