Egypt crisis delayed Ethiopia’s approval of Nile water deal, says minister

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Ethiopia’s Communication Minister Bereket Simon told Al Arabiya on Sunday that his country will resume its plan to build the controversial Renaissance Dam and explained the reasons behind the Ethiopian parliament’s delay in approving the Nile River Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA).

“Ethiopia had to approve the CFA through the parliament two years ago but we saw it was unfair to work on approving it whilst Egypt is in a crisis so we told the leadership that we must wait until a new government is elected,” Bereket said.

He added that since President Mohammed Mursi has been in power for almost a year now, “the time has come for [Ethiopia] to approve of the agreement through the parliament.”

Ethiopia’s parliament on Thursday approved the Nile River CFA, replacing all colonial-era deals that granted Egypt and Sudan the majority of water rights to the Nile, the world’s longest river.

Bereket also referred to previous efforts to hold talks with Egypt about cancelling the colonial-era agreement.

“We’ve previously attempted to negotiate with Egypt to cancel the old agreement and work on making a new ones. It has been like that for 20 or 30 years. The Egyptian party was strict and it refused to confront the new reality,” the minister said.

He added that both downstream nations, Sudan and Egypt, had been invited to attend meetings to discuss new agreements but “when the point of signing new agreements that guarantee equal shares of the Nile reached, both of them refused to sign.”
This is no longer the case with Sudan, however, added Bereket.

Regarding Ethiopia’s insistence to build the Renaissance Dam, Bereket cited increased demand and the urgent need to provide electricity.

“We could no longer wait until the Egyptian government agrees and signs the new agreement,” he said, adding that Ethiopia made all efforts possible to include Egypt in its policy shift.

“Despite Egypt’s stalling and despite the fact that it is not convinced (of the CFA plan), we had contacted it [Egypt] and invited it and tried to convince it of our attempts. This does not mean that Egypt will continue to hold its right of appeal that it possessed as per the old agreement,” Bereket said.

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