Egypt’s Water and Irrigation Minister Hossam El-Din Moghazy discussed the Ethiopian dam and the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) while in Sudan, his first trip abroad since his appointment as minister.
Moghazy led a delegation to the neighbouring country where he held talks with Sudanese Minister of Water Resources and Electricity Mutaz Musa. While discussing the NBI, Moghazy expressed Egypt’s aspiration in Sudan playing a role in bringing the views of Nile Basin countries closer since Musa is the current chairperson of the Nile Council of Ministers, a statement by Egypt’s Water Ministry said. Musa asserted that he has intentions of making efforts with Nile Basin countries in this regard.
Egypt and Sudan had frozen their activities in the NBI in 2010 in protest over the signing of the Cooperative Framework Agreement by five Nile Basin countries. The agreement has had Nile Basin countries split because it aims to re-divide shares of the Nile. Egypt has refused to sign the agreement and said it was “against the interests of Egypt and Sudan.”
Sudan eventually resumed activities in the NBI last year. In conclusion of a Nile Council of Ministers meeting last month, Musa read out a statement, in which the council called on Egypt to unfreeze its activities in the NBI.
Downstream countries Egypt and Sudan together receive the majority of Nile Water. As per agreements signed in 1929 and 1959, Egypt annually receives 55.5bn cubic metres of the estimated total 84bn cubic metres of Nile water produced each year and Sudan receives 18.5bn cubic metres.
Moghazy invited Musa for tripartite talks in Cairo between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia; an invitation was handed to the Ethiopian side at the same time. The talks will be on “preparations in order to move forward in regards to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).” Tripartite talks were held between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia in November, December and January, but no agreement was reached.
The invitations come days after Egypt and Ethiopia announced in a joint statement an agreement to form a joint committee within three months to streamline discussions on GERD. The two countries, outlined seven steps for the continuing construction of the dam. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the agreements provides “consensus in all aspects of relations between the two sides, bilateral and regional [and] in the fields of political, economic, social development.”
Bilateral talks between Egypt and Ethiopia in February had ended after failing to resolve the sticking points of the debate between the two countries.
GERD, which is currently being built on the Blue Nile, a major tributary to the Nile, has been a point of contention between Egypt and Ethiopia since Egypt fears that the dam will have a detrimental effect on its share of Nile water. The 1929 and 1959 agreements which guarantee Egypt the lion’s share of Nile water were signed in the absence of Ethiopia.