Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia dam talks 'successful'

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Addis Ababa, 10 December 2013 (WIC) - Water ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on Monday "successfully" held talks on an Ethiopian dam project, Sudan's minister said, after Egypt's objections delayed formation of a committee to implement expert advice.

Cairo fears the Grand Renaissance dam project could diminish its water supply.

"We have addressed a significant part of the issues on the follow-up of the implementation of the recommendations of the international panel of experts," Sudan's Water Resources and Electricity Minister, Muattaz Musa Abdallah Salim, said in a brief statement to reporters after the talks which lasted several hours.

At a meeting in Khartoum last month, ministers from the three nations failed to agree on the composition of the committee which would follow through on expert recommendations about the Grand Renaissance project, Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Karti said earlier.

The experts' report has not been made public, but Ethiopia has said it confirms that the impact on water levels is minimal.

Cairo had sought more studies about the dam's effect on its water supply, which is almost entirely dependent on the Nile.

Egypt wanted international representatives on the committee but Ethiopia preferred national delegates, Karti said after the ministers' first meeting in early November.

"We the ministers... have concluded the second meeting successfully," Salim said.

Asked whether that meant the differences over the committee had been resolved, Ethiopian minister Alemayehu Tegenu told AFP: "Almost, yes."

Sudan's minister Salim said "the remaining issues" would be addressed in Khartoum during talks from January 4-5.

Salim headed to Monday's meeting immediately after his mid-day swearing-in as a new member of President Omar al-Bashir's reshuffled cabinet.

Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile in May to build the 6,000 MW dam which will be Africa's largest when completed in 2017.

Egypt believes its "historic rights" to the Nile are guaranteed by two treaties from 1929 and 1959 which allow it 87 percent of the Nile's flow and give it veto power over upstream projects.

But a new deal signed in 2010 by other Nile Basin countries, including Ethiopia, allows them to work on river projects without Cairo's prior agreement.

Both Sudan and Egypt have not signed the new Nile Basin deal.

Sudan, like Egypt, relies on Nile resources but has said it does not expect to be affected by the Grand Renaissance project.

On Wednesday Sudan and Ethiopia inaugurated a cross-border electricity link which an analyst said aims to strengthen Khartoum-Addis Ababa ties after tensions with Egypt over the dam project.

State media in Khartoum said Sudan will initially buy 100 MW from Ethiopia through the 321-kilometre (199-mile) line. (Agence France Press)

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