Saturday, May 14, 2011

Egyptian PM in Ethiopia for Nile talks | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf was in Ethiopia for an official visit Friday, devoted mainly to talks on sharing the waters of the Nile, an issue at the centre of high tensions between the two countries.

Sharaf, who arrived in Addis Ababa on Thursday, had a meeting behind closed doors for several hours with his Ethiopian counterpart, Meles Zenawi, an AFP journalist witnessed.

"Ethiopia has already frozen ratification of a treaty on sharing Nile River water until a new Egyptian government takes office and joins the negotiations," Meles said at the close of talks.

"So we would wait for Egyptians until they elect their new government and the new government takes office to join the negotiations."

Countries that share the Nile River basin have demanded the revision of colonial-era agreements that allot the bulk of the river's water to Egypt and Sudan and allow Cairo to veto upstream projects.

Egypt does not recognise an agreement between other basin countries that revised the treaties, but the government that replaced ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February has shown interest in resolving the dispute.

The revised agreement, signed by Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, seeks to allow irrigation and hydroelectric projects to go ahead without Cairo's consent.

Sharaf heads a large delegation including the foreign and electricity ministers on a visit that started in Uganda and has been billed "historic" by Cairo.

Ethiopia has taken the lead in the campaign against Egypt, for whom the Nile is just about its only source of water.

Zenawi said the delay in the treaty ratification "does not mean that Ethiopia will stop its construction of the (Gibe) dam".

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