The two countries have agreed to further consultations on the environmental, social and down stream impacts of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Ethiopia sought to defuse a brewing diplomatic row over the construction of a dam on the Nile, by promising to “swim” rather than “sink together.”

In a joint statement issued in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the two countries agreed to further consultations on the environmental, social and down stream impacts of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

“We are for the development efforts of Ethiopia, we are ready to help them out,” said Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, adding that the Egyptian private sector had invested nearly $ 2 billion in the Ethiopian economy.

“In the meantime, we are sure that Ethiopia is also very determined not to hurt Egypt in anyway. We have only the river Nile, we get about 86 per cent of our water from the Blue Nile,” Mr. Amr said, “[We agreed] to further studies to ascertain the effects of the dam.”

Ethiopia insists that the 6000 MW $ 4.7 billion hydroelectric project near the source of the Blue Nile is crucial for the country’s development, while Egypt has expressed fears over the potential loss of fresh water. Ethiopia is the source of the Blue Nile, a tributary that accounts for nearly 60 per cent of Nile water.

Earlier this month, an international panel of experts delivered a report on the effects of the dam for Ethiopia and lower riparian countries Sudan and Egypt, but all three countries have chosen not to reveal the contents of the report.

Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “We are building the dam in a way that addresses the water security concerns of Egypt.” Mr. Tedros said any new recommendations could be incorporated into the dam structure even as construction continued apace.

Last month, Ethiopia diverted the course of the river to commence dam construction, prompting a furious Egyptian response. In an embarrassing disclosure, Egypt’s politicians were caught on live television calling for military action against the dam.

Ethiopia responded by ratifying a new water-sharing agreement to replace a colonial-era treaty that divided the Nile waters between the prized British colonies of Egypt and Sudan but ignored the claims of at least 8 other Nile basin States.

Ethiopian officials expect the dam to begin producing electricity as early as next year and hope to complete dam construction by 2017, and insist that the dam would actually improve Egypt’s water supply. “The expert panel report says water availability shall actually increase by 12 per cent as it will reduce losses to evaporation,” claimed an Ethiopian official who had seen the report but was not at liberty to officially disclose its contents.

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