Egypt’s ambassador to Ethiopia Mohamed Idris met with Ethiopian foreign ministry officials to deliver a message from Cairo that “Nile water is a matter of utmost importance to the Egyptian people and their livelihood.”
Idris told Ethiopian officials that Addis Ababa’s decision to divert water from the Blue Nile has caused “shock and disappointment” on the Egyptian side both officially and popularly, urging the Ethiopians to ensure that the scientific and technical results of the International Panel of Experts tripartite commission’s report form the basis for any decision making on the issue of the Grand Renaissance Dam.
“Egypt insists that Ethiopia honour all international agreements it is signatory to, as well as its international commitments in light of the new era of bilateral relations between the countries following the 25 January Revolution,” Idris told state-owned news agency MENA.
Ethiopian officials told Idris that they realise the significance of the water issue to Egypt and its people and that Ethiopia would never say or do anything to negatively affect Egypt’s water interests.
“The Ethiopian side assured me that all of their actions are taken with mutual benefits and cooperation in mind and that diverting the water is merely an engineering decision they had announced in advance and that it would not affect Egypt’s water supply in any way at any time,” he added.
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in turn summoned the Ethiopian ambassador in Cairo and reaffirmed the demand that Ethiopia honour its international commitments.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aly Al-Hifny told Ethiopian ambassador Mohamed Dareer Egypt awaits the report from the tripartite commission between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia and that the report’s recommendations and concerns must be followed and heeded in order to protect the interests of all three countries.
Al-Hifny stressed the importance of coordination in advance before any other steps are taken with regards to the Grand Renaissance Dam in the context of international cooperation.
President Mohamed Morsi met on Thursday with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Kamel Amr, Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Bahaa Al-Din, Minister of Defence and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, Minister of Interior Major General Mohamed Ibrahim, and General Intelligence Service Director Major General Raafat Shehata to discuss the latest developments and best courses of actions.
The presidency is scheduled to hold a press conference later on Thursday to announce the latest updates.
Bahaa Al-Din said the tripartite commission’s report would arrive on Sunday because the commission requested more time. He added that former President Hosni Mubarak’s mismanagement of African relations was the reason for the current situation Egypt finds itself in.
The water minister said Egypt would help train Ethiopians in the fields of irrigation and electricity and that an Ethiopian delegation is due to arrive to Cairo next week to discuss international cooperation.
Assistant to President on Foreign Relations Essam Al-Haddad stressed in an opinion piece today the importance of Ethiopia as a regional partner and of rebuilding bilateral relations.
The article, published in the Egypt Foreign Policy Blog, a project launched by Egypt Foreign Policy Forum, the Egyptian Administration’s official foreign policy think tank, named Ethiopia and Sudan as Egypt’s most important strategic partners in Africa.
The Ethiopian government announced on Tuesday it was beginning to divert the water from the Blue Nile ahead of construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam. The decision came just after Morsi left Ethiopia after a visit marking the 50th anniversary of the African Union.
During the visit Morsi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn discussed the dam, which Ethiopia says it is building for the purpose of generating electricity, and Desalegn assured Morsi construction would not affect the water share or the interests of both Sudan and Egypt.
A number of concerns have been raised by Sudan and Egypt regarding the Grand Renaissance Dam since the start of its construction in April 2011. Egypt sent a delegation to Ethiopia in 2011 to inspect the site and the plans for the dam in order to ensure water allocation will not be affected.
In April this year, the head of the Fisheries Authority, Amani Ismail, expressed concern over the building of the dam, claiming it would cause Egypt and Sudan to lose out on 18 million cubic metres of water and reduce the electricity produced by the Aswan Dam by approximately 25 to 30%.
Egypt has long received the largest share of the water from the Nile, as per agreements signed in 1929 and 1959, which guaranteed Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres annually of the estimated total of 84 billion cubic metres of Nile water produced each year.