18 February 2014

Egypt: Sudan Foreign Minister Criticises Egypt Over Ethiopian Dam Dispute

Khartoum — Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti has criticised Egypt for its handling of a dispute involving the construction of a massive dam project in Ethiopia, which it has vehemently opposed over concerns it could disrupt water flows from the Nile river.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, when completed, will reduce the capacity of the Aswan High Dam, helping to save about six billion cubic metres of water. Image courtesy of Hajor.

Karti said Egypt was further inflaming the situation by making critical comments in the media, adding that Sudan would continue its efforts to bridge the gap between the two countries.

"The position of Sudan is clear and we have already called on Egyptian officials to take advantage of the central role that Sudan could play regarding the crisis, but the arrogance of the previous government did not allow them to accept this idea," he said.

"If there is a room for a role that Sudan can play then the atmosphere must be clear away from the tensions and the cries over the media that do more harm than good," he added.

Karti and Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir returned home from Ethiopia on Tuesday from Ethiopia, where they were participating in celebrations marking the 39th anniversary of the establishment of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF). Sudan played a key role in supporting the Ethiopian rebel group, who managed to bring down the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.

Bashir also held talks with Ethiopia's prime minister Haile-Mariam Desalegn on the sidelines of the events, which Karti said addressed ways to strengthen bilateral trade to serve their countries' interests.

Speaking to reporters at Khartoum airport following his return, Karti said Ethiopia and Sudan had agreed to open border crossings and activate existing economic and trade committees between the two countries.

He denied that Sudan is taking sides in the dispute over the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (EGRD) because of it has joint interests in both nations.

Egypt fears that the $4.6 billion hydropower plant will diminish its share of the river's water flows, arguing its historic water rights must be maintained.

Ethiopia is the source of about 85% of the Nile's water, mainly through rainfall in its highlands, with over 90% of Egyptians relying on water from the Nile's flows.

In June, a panel of international experts tasked with studying the impacts of the Ethiopian dam on lower riparian countries, including Sudan and Egypt, found that the dam project will not cause significant harm to either country.

Cairo remains unconvinced and has sought further studies and consultation with Khartoum and Addis Ababa.

Sudan angered its Egyptian neighbour to the north by accepting the final findings and offering to send experts and technicians to help in the dam's construction, a move welcomed by Ethiopia.

The Sudanese foreign minister is expected to travel to Cairo in the coming days, local media have reported.

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