Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el- Sissi on Wednesday urged Ethiopia’s leaders to put aside “centuries of mistrust” and cooperate on sharing Nile River waters as Ethiopia presses ahead with the construction of a massive new dam.
El-Sissi, in Ethiopia on a three-day official visit, said in an address to Ethiopia’s parliament that Egypt hopes to continue to have access to the Nile’s waters without being threatened by other countries.
In his speech, which received applause from the Ethiopian legislators, el-Sissi said that no one “should ever feel secure about his future without the other, or to build his welfare at the expense of his brother.”
He continued: “Your Egyptian brothers also have the right, not only to development, but also the right to life itself and to live in safe haven on the banks of the River Nile, the river upon which they created an incessant civilization for thousands of years.”
The leaders of Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia on Monday signed an initial agreement outlining principles by which they will cooperate to use the water fairly. Both el-Sissi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemarian Desalegn told a news conference in Addis Ababa on Tuesday that they have agreed to yearly talks aimed at resolving any questions over access to the Nile.
Egypt previously voiced fears that Ethiopia’s $4.2 billion hydro-electric project would diminish its share of the Nile, which provides almost all of the desert nation’s water needs.
Until recently, Ethiopia abided by a colonial-era agreement that gave 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 gave Egypt veto powers over Nile projects.
They said at the time that work on the Ethiopian dam, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Sudan’s eastern border, will continue during consultations with Cairo, and that experts had already agreed the dam will not significantly affect water flow to Egypt and Sudan.