Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Egypt agrees to collaborate on Ethiopian dam

 Egypt announced that it will collaborate with Ethiopia on the Renaissance Dam as a regional project, in a drastic move from its opposition to the project, which precipitated a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

At a meeting of water ministers of the eastern Nile Basin countries in Khartoum on Monday, Minister of Water Resources Mohamed Abdel Moteleb told the gathering that Egypt supports the initiative proposed by Ethiopia to treat the Renaissance Dam as a joint regional project.

Moteleb added that research should be conducted by countries benefitting or affected by any similar projects pertaining to the Nile Basin.

According to state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, Abdel Meteleb said that the Khartoum meeting di not result in an agreement yet, but another meeting is slated for December 8 to further discuss the issue. He added that so far Egypt's position is to continue
researching the environmental and economic implications of the dam.

During the rule of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, governmental rhetoric about the dam was threatening in tone and caused a diplomatic crisis with Ethiopia.

Hany Raslan, the head of the Sudan and Nile Basin Unit at the Ahram Center for Political Strategic Studies, told privately-owned daily Al-Masry Al-Youm that the new Egyptian position represents a challenge for the Ethiopian authorities, because it compels them to show whether they are genuinely willing to collaborate with Egypt or only want to win time.

He added that Egypt's position improves its image in Ethiopia, which in the past has slammed the Arab country for its one-sided position and for its previous implied threats to resort to violence if the dam project proceeds.

In a commentary from last June, Abdel Moneim Halawa wrote in the Fikra Platform that the political crisis emanated from the fact that the dam became an important nationalist project for Ethiopians who saw it as a means to develop the country and expand its water and power resources.

Meanwhile, for Egypt, the dam is expected to reduce electricity produced by the Aswan dam, while also limit its Nile water resources, the main source of which is the Ethiopian plateau.

The Ethiopian dam raised concerns about Egypt's foreign policy in particular with regard to the rest of the African continent.