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Ethiopia defies threats from Egypt, ratifies the Nile treaty

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ethiopia’s Parliament unanimously ratified a treaty that strips Egypt of its right to the lion’s share of the River Nile waters.

The move  raises the political temperature in a dispute between Cairo and Addis Ababa over construction of a dam along the river.

The Parliament’s move yesterday, follows days of irate exchanges between two nations over Ethiopia’s new hydroelectric plant, which Egypt fears will reduce a water supply vital for its 84 million people.  Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said on Monday he did not want “war” but would keep “all options open.”

 This  prompted Ethiopia to say it was ready to defend its $4.7 billion Great Renaissance Dam near the border with Sudan.

Six Nile basin countries including Ethiopia have signed a deal effectively stripping Cairo of its veto, which is based on colonial-era treaties, over dam projects on the Nile, source of nearly all Egypt’s water.  Ethiopia’s late leader Meles Zenawi had delayed parliamentary ratification until Egypt elected a new government. “Most of the upstream countries have approved it through their parliaments. We delayed it as a gesture of goodwill to the people of Egypt until a formal elected government was in place,” Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon said.

“We have a principled stance on the construction of dams. We are determined to see our projects brought to completion.”

Another government spokesman, Shimeles Kemal, said Ethiopia’s 547-seat legislature had voted to “incorporate the treaty into domestic law”.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr is expected to travel to Addis Ababa on Sunday for talks about the dam, though Ethiopia’s foreign ministry has said there can be no question of suspending construction.

An Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman has said the talks with Egypt are “in the spirit of Ethiopian interests”.   


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