Egypt urged to rejoin NBI

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Addis Ababa, 21 June 2014 (WIC) - Sudan Thursday appealed for Egypt to resume full participation in a 10-nation Nile River forum, four years after Cairo withdrew over fears for its access to the crucial water source.

Egypt has limited its participation in the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) since 2010 when Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania signed a new treaty on equitable sharing of Nile waters.

Burundi and Kenya later also inked the deal which stripped Egypt of its power to veto upstream irrigation and hydropower projects.

The Cooperative Framework Agreement replaced a decades-old pact that gave Egypt and Sudan rights over more than 90% of the Nile’s waters.

To protest the 2010 pact, Cairo withdrew from the NBI, a forum for riparian countries to discuss joint management and development of the region’s resources.

“I should like to place an appeal to our sister nation Egypt. Please, your seat is still empty,” Sudan’s water resources and electricity minister, Muattaz Musa Abdallah Salim, said at the annual meeting of Nile Basin water ministers. “Your resumption of your activities in NBI will further consolidate our gains and integrity in the region,” Salim said.
Egypt has expressed particular fears that Ethiopia’s 6,000MW Grand Renaissance dam project could diminish its water supply. The dam will be Africa’s largest when completed in 2017.   

Cairo raised its concerns in three-way talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, but they have not met since January.   
“There is no schedule but we always invite them to come to the discussion,” Ethiopia’s water minister Alemayehu Tegenu told AFP, adding that construction of the dam is going well.   

Abu Zeid said Egypt hopes for “common ground to start a constructive dialogue” on the Ethiopian hydro project.   
The 6,700km Nile River is one of the world’s longest and drains about 10% of Africa.   

NBI says its cooperative mechanism has brought tangible benefits, including a cross-border electricity link opened in December between Sudan and Ethiopia.

Democratic Republic of Congo is NBI’s 10th member.     (AFP)