PM Hailemariam met Egypt leaders over Nile row

Addis Ababa, November 21 (WIC) – Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met and Egyptian interim president, Adly Mansour, for the first time to discuss tensions over the construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the river Nile. The two leaders met on Tuesday on the sidelines of an Afro-Arab Summit in Kuwait, however the meeting, reportedly, ended without any agreement. It was the first meeting between leaders of the two countries over the Grand Renaissance Dam since the deposed Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, met Hailemariam in May.

Ethiopia officially launched the construction of Africa's biggest dam in April 2011, thirty percent of its construction has, so far, been completed. When it goes fully operational in 2017, the dam will have a capacity to generate 6,000-megawatt.

Egypt fears the dam could diminish its water supply. However, Ethiopia, also backed by a report from a Panel of International Experts, has assured lower riparian countries including Sudan that the dam will have no significant harm. The experts panel, comprising of two experts each from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt and four international experts, who have been reviewing the social and environmental impact of the dam.

The panel has issued a report about the project's potential impact on water levels, which has not yet been made public. But Ethiopia says the report favors its position that the dam will cause no significant harm to lower riparian countries. Sudan has since publicly backed the project. Colonial-era treaties negotiated by the British gave Egypt and Sudan a majority share of Nile waters. Seven other countries through which the river flows argue the agreements were unjust and need to be torn up.

At a one-day meeting in the Sudanese capital Khartoum this month the water ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed to form a panel to implement the expert recommendations. But Egyptian objections about the composition of the committee have been delaying its formation. A second round of negotiations is scheduled for Khartoum on December 8.

Egypt has previously sought to delay the construction of the dam and its requests to inspect it have been rejected by the Ethiopians, who say Egypt needs to relinquish its power to veto projects on the Nile, which it was also given as part of the 1929 and 1959 treaties.

Under those agreements, Egypt is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic meters a year, most of the Nile's total flow of about 84 billion cubic meters. However, about 85 percent of the river's water originates in the Ethiopian highlands. A new deal signed in 2010 by other Nile Basin countries, including Ethiopia, allows them to work on river projects without Cairo's prior agreement. Egypt has not signed that deal. (compiled from other media)