Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt’s new Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Hossam Maghazi has said he expects a breakthrough in the crisis between Cairo and Addis Ababa over Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam once newly-elected President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi becomes personally involved in the talks.
Sisi is expected to hold a meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the sidelines of the forthcoming African Union summit in Equatorial Guinea later this month. Sisi’s participation comes a few days after Egypt’s membership to the African Union was restored.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Maghazi said: “The Nile water crisis is currently being handled at the highest levels of government, with President Sisi personally managing this file.”
“A number of proposals for the fair usage of Nile water have been put forward, but a resolution requires the political will of Addis Ababa,” he added.
Ethiopia is in the process of constructing the Grand Renaissance Dam, which will be the largest dam on the Nile River and is expected to be finished in 2017. Cairo says the dam project threatens its share of Nile water and will reduce the amount of electricity produced by the Aswan High Dam. Talks between Cairo and Addis Ababa stalled earlier this year with former Egyptian Water Minister Mohamed Abdul Muttalib saying: “Egypt has exhausted all avenues of negotiation about the dam.” Sisi made the resolution of the crisis one of his election priorities.
Maghazi, who was appointed Water Minister earlier this week, said he was ready to bear the responsibility to protect Egypt’s share of Nile water. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We will seek to strengthen historic relations with the countries of the Nile basin and to work with them to maximize the benefit from the Nile for all countries without negatively affecting Egypt’s historic and legitimate rights.”
“Egypt does not oppose the aspirations of the Ethiopian people and is willing to provide technical support for the construction of the dam provided it does not harm the interests of both countries,” he added.