Egypt’s Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Hossam El-Moghazy said the first day of the two-day tripartite talks around Ethiopia’s hydro-electric high dam project talks were “pleasing”, state news agency MENA reported.
The day consisted of two six-hour meetings in which delegations debated contested issues.
In their meetings, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan’s irrigation ministers discussed the implementation of the recommendations of the International Panel of Experts (IPoE), according to the Ethiopian foreign ministry website.
The three countries reopened their fourth round of talks to resolve disputes over the GERD on Monday in Khartoum, Sudan.
Ethiopia first announced it would start building the hydro-electric dam in 2011. Egypt opposed Ethiopia’s project on the grounds that it would disrupt the flow of the Nile, decrease its share of the Nile water and diminish its water supply.
Ethiopia maintains that the dam will not hinder Egypt’s access to Nile water. The two countries have since been locked in a diplomatic dispute.
In the talks, El-Moghazy said that “Egypt was never, and will never be against the development” of the Nile Basin countries “as long as they are aiming to achieve mutual development,” and “the integrated management of water resources”.
On the sideline of the African Union summit in June, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn decided to form a joint committee to organise discussions and hailed it as a “new chapter in relations between Egypt and Ethiopia… based on openness and mutual understanding and cooperation.”
The foreign ministers of the two countries outlined seven steps for the continuing construction of the dam, and created the International Panel of Experts (IPoE).
The IPoE is composed of six representatives drawn from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, in addition to four international experts to assess the impact of the dam project on downstream countries.
Both Moghazy and the Ethiopian water and energy minister Alemayehu Tegenu agreed this round of tripartite talks would build on the agreements previously made by Al-Sisi and Desalegn, with Tegenu stating the talks are to set up “a framework for the follow up of the IPoE recommendations”.
“You all know Egypt’s circumstances in regards to its own drought and scarcity of rain, and its absolute dependence on the Nile waters,” Moghazy said. “Since we are all water specialists before being politicians, I ask you all as friends and brothers to share our concerns and fears regarding the impact of the building operations and the Renaissance dam project on the downstream countries.”
Earlier tripartite meetings ended five-months ago without Egypt and Ethiopia having reached any agreements.
Together, Egypt and Sudan receive a majority of the Nile water. According to agreements the two countries signed 1929 and 1959, Egypt annually receives 55.5bn cubic metres and Sudan receives 18.5bn cubic metres of the estimated total 84bn cubic metres of Nile water produced each year.
Egypt and Sudan signed these agreements in the absence of Ethiopia.
The three countries concluded their previous tripartite talks in January without having reached any agreements. Tripartite talks held in November and December of last year also failed to reach any consensus.
In February, Egypt and Ethiopia once again failed to resolve key points of disagreement in bilateral talks between them.