By ELIAS MESERET
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The leaders of Ethiopia and Egypt said on Tuesday that they are hopeful talks over sharing Nile River waters will end in agreement.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told reporters in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, where he is on an official visit, that Ethiopia and Egypt are “on the right path to cooperation” following the signing of an initial agreement between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.
That agreement, signed on Monday in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, outlines principles by which they will cooperate to use the water fairly and resolve any potential disputes peacefully. The details on on specific procedures will be determined later after the release of joint studies by experts.
“We have also agreed to set up a second committee to the one that is already in place and we hope it will boost mutual confidence and remove uncertainty,” el-Sissi said on Tuesday.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said he will hold direct talks with el-Sissi at least once a year either in Addis Ababa or Cairo.
“The high-level meeting that we just agreed upon will enable us to work on issues without losing the momentum,” he said.
Cairo previously had voiced fears that Ethiopia’s $4.2 billion hydro-electric project, announced in 2011, would diminish its share of the Nile, which provides almost all of the desert nation’s water needs.
Until recently, Ethiopia had abided by a colonial-era agreement that gives downstream Egypt and Sudan rights to the Nile water, with Egypt taking 55.5 billion cubic meters and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic meters of the total of 84 billion cubic meters, with 10 billion lost to evaporation.
But in 2013, Ethiopia’s parliament unanimously ratified a new accord which replaced previous deals that awarded Egypt veto powers over Nile projects. They said at the time that work on the dam, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Sudan’s eastern border, will continue during consultations with Cairo, and that experts had already agreed that the dam would not significantly affect water flow to both Egypt and Sudan.