CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak is due to hold talks with a number of officials from the Nile Basin nations during the two-day African summit to be held in Nice, France next Monday.
Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza and Investment Minister Mahmoud Mohieldin will also travel to Ethiopia and Uganda to hold talks with officials over developments regarding the Nile Basin in June.
Local news reports Friday cited an Ethiopian source as saying that the country does not intend to cut Egypt’s access to the Nile water and is willing to negotiate a new water-sharing agreement that will benefit all states, including Egypt and Sudan.
According to a report by independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak congratulated Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for a recent parliamentary win last Sunday, in an effort to thaw tensions with five African nations who recently signed a Nile Basin agreement opposed by Cairo.
Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda signed on March 14 a pact favoring the interests of upstream countries as opposed to decades-old treaties that provided Egypt and Sudan with larger shares of the river. Both Egypt and Sudan were excluded from the treaty.
“We need to develop mechanisms that will facilitate the implementation of development projects aimed at solving some of the problems faced by the upstream countries, including developments in drinking water and sewage systems.
“It doesn’t make sense that electricity outreach in Ethiopia reaches only 5 percent, which hinders industrial and agricultural developments. That said, no one should oppose the building of necessary dams to cover such shortage,” the source was quoted as saying.
Last week, the Nile water-sharing issue took center stage when Mubarak hosted Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Congolese President Joseph Kabila in Cairo.
At the time, presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad told reporters after the two meetings that Odinga had made it clear that despite Kenya signing the treaty it had no intention of “harming Egyptian interests” regarding its share of Nile water.
Meanwhile, Shoura Council speaker and secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) Safwat El-Sherif assured that the government is capable of embarking on negotiations that will preserve Egypt’s rights to the Nile water.
“Aid and cooperation on projects tie us to the Nile Basin countries, however, there is some [external] manipulation but such is the case with politics,” he said in an interview on the Dubai-based Al Arabiya channel last Tuesday.
Egyptian analysts have in recent weeks questioned Egypt’s commitment to its African neighbors in light of its failure to appeal to all members of the Basin.