Egypt: Presidential Runner Pledges to Peacefully Resolve Dam Row With Ethiopia

Photo: Aswat Masriya
Egyptian presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi.

Addis Ababa — Egypt's presidential front runner Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said he would be keen to resolve the long running Nile water dispute with Ethiopia through dialogue if he is elected as the new president of the North African nation.

Al-Sisi said he was ready to visit Ethiopia for talks over the massive hydro plant project the East African country is building at the Blue Nile River. Egypt fears the dam will diminish its water share and will eventually affect the country's people, most of whom heavily rely upon the Nile's water.

Just over a year ago Egyptian politicians were caught discussing whether to launch military attacks against Ethiopia to sabotage the construction of the multi-billion dollar power plant project.

The comments were made at a meeting hosted by the President Mohamed Morsi - who has since been deposed - when several politicians debated bombing the dam while unaware that television cameras were recording the discussion.

At the time Ethiopia responded to the threat by saying it was ready to defend the dam project to any external threats, raising fears of a possible military confrontation between Addis Ababa and Cairo.

Morsi was deposed by the military a month later with al-Sisi assuming control of the government and putting himself in poll position to become president in elections which began on Monday and will end on Tuesday 27 May.

"Dialogue and understanding are the best way to resolve the crisis," al-Sisi told the state-run Al-Ahram daily newspaper in recent interview.

He added: "This is better than going into a dispute or an enmity with anyone."

The former army chief, who led the army to oust Mohamed Morsi last July, said he would exert utmost efforts to sustain Egypt's water security which he said was a "life-or-death issue".

Ethiopia is the source to 85% of the Nile River's water, however, colonial-era treaties written by Britain has granted down stream countries of Egypt and Sudan the lions share of the water.

When completed, the $4.3 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam which is being built in the Benishangul Gumuz region near the Sudanese border will have an electric generation capacity of 6,000 MW.

According to Ethiopia's Electric and Power Corporation (EEPCo) the dam which will be Africa's largest is currently 33% completed.

An international panel of experts with ten members composed of two experts each from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, as well as four international experts in its final report in June said the dam project will not cause significant harm to Sudan or Egypt but will in fact benefit them.

The panel of experts has delivered its final report to the respective governments of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

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