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, they 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 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 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 have chosen not to reveal the contents.

Ethiopian officials expect the dam to begin producing electricity as early as next year.