Ethiopian dam talks still ongoing, says Egypt’s irrigation minister

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Negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over technical concerns on the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam are still ongoing, Egyptian Irrigation Minister told Al-Ahram Daily in press statements.

In an interview published on Saturday, minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati told Al-Ahram that talks have not been abandoned, adding that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are also discussing when an upcoming technical and political round of talks between the three countries would be held.

“We hope they take place soon, because not reaching a resolution at the right time would be a problem for all. Reaching consensus between all parties is in everyone’s interest,” he said.

The statements by the minister come as the three countries try to agree on a fixed date to hold a postponed trilateral committee meeting in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

Abdel-Ati said that the three countries have reached consensus over a partial report presented by the two consultancy firms conducting impact studies on the dam. However, another part of the report has provoked disagreement between the three countries over its methodology.

“We’re working on reaching a consensus. As negotiators, we do not surrender,” Abdel-Ati said.

The studies by the French firms Artelia and BRL, expected to take 11 months from their start date in late 2016, include the managing of water and hydroelectric resources as well as an assessment of the cross-border environmental, social and economic impact of the mega project.

“It is not in any party’s interest to have disharmony in the region. Only through dialogue can obstacles be overcome,” Abdel-Al said.

Abdel-Ati also dismissed rumours that Ethiopia has started filling the dam’s reservoir, though he said that 60 percent of construction on the dam has been completed, and that the filling process is expected to start in October.

The minister stressed that Egypt does not object to the dam construction as a development strategy, but that the countries affected should reach an agreement in order to avoid crisis.

“Egypt will be the most affected [by the dam], and that is why we are seeking trilateral cooperation to reduce any [negative] effect,” he elaborated.

Cairo has expressed concerns that the construction of the dam, which is more than half-way complete, could negatively impact Egypt’s share of Nile water.

Addis Ababa, however, has maintained that the dam project, which Ethiopia says is vital for generating electricity, will not harm downstream countries, with Ethiopian FM Workneh Gebeyehu assuring Egyptians in April during a first-time Cairo visit that Ethiopia would never harm the Egyptian people and their interests.

Source: Ahram Online

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