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Al-Araby al-Jadeed

Nile dam plan likely to be scuppered by Sisi

Downstream Egypt fears the strategic consequences of Ethiopia's control of the Nile [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 22 March, 2015

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Sisi is reportedly making a political issue out of a trilateral agreement over Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam, concerned Egyptian farmers will lose out in any re-allocation of Nile waters.
Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is due to begin a three-day visit to Sudan and Ethiopia on Monday to finalise agreements over Nile River water rights.

The dealing comes as the controversial $4.8 billion Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project hits its 40 percent completion mark.

Sudan has said that it will sign an agreement in Khartoum tomorrow, with Nile partners Egypt and Ethiopia, before Sisi heads to Addis Ababa with Ethiopia's prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.

Pushing the agreement

However, sources with knowledge of the president's overseas trip say this is yet to be confirmed.

"The trilateral meeting in Sudan will likely be a new session of discussions and negotiations on each country's right to the waters of the Nile," the source said, requesting anonymity.

"If the agreement is signed, it will only be a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which the relevant ministries of all three countries agreed to weeks ago."

This still does not present a final resolution to water rights issues, considering the Renaissance Dam is due to be completed in 2017.

Egypt's president has reportedly been angered by a draft of the water deal on offer.

Addis Ababa will send Egypt written guarantees, pledging Egypt's share of the Nile waters will not be affected by the dam, according to a draft seen by al-Araby al-Jadeed.

The construction of the Blue Nile dam has courted controversy in downstream Egypt, with residents and officials fearful that access to Nile waters will be reduced.

Egypt relies on the Nile to irrigate its farmland, although Ethiopia and other Nile countries have claimed Cairo is overreacting and that there will be no loss of water for the country.

Sisi was said to have chaired a meeting last Wednesday with government officials who are working on the Nile deal and ordered them to prepare an alternative draft.

This would weigh more heavily in Egypt's favour and Cairo hopes it would become the base of negotiations on Nile waters.

Water rights

Sisi was also said to be unhappy with the ambiguity of the annexes in the deal written in Khartoum.

Unresolved issues apparently relate to how and when the dam basin will be filled with the Nile waters, and how this will affect Egypt's share.
     Sisi ordered the general intelligence chief to take over the issue completely.

"Sisi is still reticent regarding the signing of the framework agreement proposed by Ethiopia, although Sudan has become more flexible," said our source.

"He ordered the general intelligence chief to take over the issue completely and prepare a final document on whether or not to sign the agreement that should be presented to [the president] on Sunday."

The Egyptian leader wants a clear and specific pledge from Ethiopia that the dam will not affect Egypt's water allocation, which accounts to 55.5 billion cubic metres annually.

He is said to be unwilling to sign a trilateral agreement on Addis Ababa's right to build a dam with water allocations being only a marginal detail.

Egypt's foreign ministry issued a brief but strongly worded statement on Friday confirming that it was still committed to previous Nile water treaties.

"Egypt's rights stated in all Nile water treaties have not been tampered with," the ministry said.

Sudanese and Ethiopian media said that the ministry's statement underlined Egypt's hesitation towards the deal, while the president's office took the unusual step of not revealing the itinerary of Sisi's visit to Khartoum and Addis Ababa.

However, sources say that Sisi is expected to give a speech in the Ethiopian parliament on the importance of the Nile waters to Egypt and how the Renaissance Dam should not affect his country's allocation.

The president will be accompanied on the overseas trip by a number of Egyptian business owners who want to double Egypt's investments and trade in Ethiopia by 2016.

An industrial zone is also due to be built in Addis Ababa by Egypt.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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