Tuesday, May 20, 2014
ADDIS ABABA – Diplomats from the U.S. and E.U. are shuttling between Ethiopia and Egypt in hopes of persuading the two countries to restart tripartite talks on Addis Ababa’s multibillion-dollar hydroelectric dam project on the Nile River, an Ethiopian official has said.
“E.U. and U.S. diplomats told us that they wanted to help peace in the region,” Fekahmed Negash, Boundary and Trans-boundary Rivers Director at the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Energy and Irrigation, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
A tripartite committee – including representatives from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt – was drawn up in 2011 and tasked with assessing the dam’s possible environmental, economic and social effects on downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
But its work came to a standstill in January over differences between Ethiopia and Egypt, the latter of which fears the $6.4-billion dam will reduce its traditional share of Nile water.
Aaron Salsburg, the U.S. State Department’s special coordinator for water resources, and E.U. representative to the African Union Alexander Rondos returned to Addis Ababa from Egypt where they spoke with senior officials.
Before going to Cairo, the two diplomats were in Addis Ababa last Friday where they discussed the issue with senior Foreign Ministry and Water Ministry officials.
“Topics discussed included ways of restarting tripartite consultations among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan… and implementation of the Nile Basin Initiative, particularly that of the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program (ENSAP),” Negash told Anadolu Agency by phone.
“Before he left for Cairo, Salsburg gave us assurances that his country did not have a stand concerning the dispute over the Nile,” Negash said. “But both the U.S. and the E.U. informed us that they had a stake in regional peace.”
“Now that the two diplomats are returning [to Addis Ababa], we expect a report from them as to Egypt’s stand concerning construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project and on the resumption of the tripartite deliberations,” he added.
“If Egypt changes its stance and wants to come back to the tripartite talks, we will welcome it with open arms,” he said. “If there is any proposal conveyed by Egypt, we will study it against our national interest and give a decision.”
When completed in 2017, the Grand Renaissance Dam will have a 6000-megawatt production capacity, according to Ethiopian government sources.
Addis Ababa says the dam will benefit downstream states Sudan and Egypt, both of which will be invited to purchase the electricity thus generated.
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