Ethiopia Nile meeting dogged by tension

Closed meetings between Nile Basin water ministers began on Saturday in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa amid assurances by Egypt that it had no plans to call for an exceptional meeting in Cairo to discuss ongoing disputes over water sharing.

According to ministry sources, President Hosni Mubarak has commissioned Irrigation Minister Mohamed Nasr Eddin Allam to intensify efforts aimed at joint cooperation with upstream Nile Basin states. Official sources also said that International Cooperation Minister Fayza Abul Naga was scheduled to visit a number of Nile basin countries to discuss possible joint projects.

Egypt spokesman Ashraf Awwad told Al-Masry Al-Youm from Addis Ababa that yesterday’s meeting had seen the rotating presidency of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI)–which includes nine Nile states–pass from Egypt to Ethiopia. He went on to say that upstream countries appeared to be participating in the conference in good faith.

Last month, five upstream countries–Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Rwanda–signed a new water-sharing agreement in Entebbe, Uganda. Egypt and Sudan, however, rejected the treaty, saying they would oppose any agreement that did not explicitly recognize their traditional quotas of Nile water.

Sources at the Sudanese Irrigation Ministry told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the first day of the Addis Ababa meeting had been dogged by tension between upstream and downstream states in light of Ethiopian attempts to pressure Burundi and and the Democratic Republic of Congo to sign on to the Entebbe agreement.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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