Egypt says Nile basin countries not to harm its waterinterests

08:55, May 25, 2010      

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Egyptian and Kenyan prime ministers said on Monday there is consensus among the Nile basin countries with no intention to harm Egypt's water interests.

Following a meeting with his visiting Kenyan counterpart Raila Odinga, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said there is consensus among the Nile basin countries on not harming his country's water interests.

However, the Egyptian premier said that though Egypt understands there is a long-standing consensus among the Nile basin nations on not jeopardizing Egypt's water rights, yet it opposes the "wording" of the agreement, state-run MENA news agency reported.

"Egypt adheres to its rights. There is no question about that. That is why Egypt believes that any project on the Nile river must first be raised for negotiations and consultations among the Nile basin nations," he said.

Nazif unveiled an initiative by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to form a Nile basin commission for the purpose of development in the riparian countries and for overcoming differences among them.

"President Hosni Mubarak has conveyed messages to presidents of the Nile basin countries pertaining a presidential initiative to establish a Nile basin commission. The commission will work to attain real development in the basin and to overcome all differences that erupted while drafting the Nile basin initiative, " he said.

The Kenyan government on Wednesday joined four upstream countries who signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement on the equitable use of water despite boycotts from Egypt and Sudan.

However, the Kenyan prime minister said during the joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart that neither his country nor the rest of the riparian nations have any intention to harm Egypt's water interests.

"On our part there is no intention to harm Egypt's water security and I carry a message of optimism...Egypt will not be affected by the agreement signed recently," Odinga said.

Egypt has launched intensive talks with Nile basin countries, seeking to preserve its historical quota to the Nile water.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak emphasized on Sunday during a meeting with the Kenyan premier that his country would help Kenya and other upstream countries to raise the water levels in Lake Victoria.

Next month, Egypt's Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza and Investment Minister Mahmoud Mohieddin will head to Ethiopia and Uganda for talks with officials there.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Saturday contacts with the signatories will continue until a joint vision of the water-sharing treaty is reached, which will determine whether Egypt will join or stay out of the agreement.

Within the framework of Egypt's intensive diplomatic efforts to contain its differences with the upstream countries, the Egyptian president met also on Sunday with his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila.

The Congolese president, whose country was one of the five states that refrained from signing the agreement, affirmed that his country will not hurt the Egyptian interests in the Nile water.

"The Congolese president said his country was totally convinced that any Nile basin accord must be unanimously approved and must achieve the mutual interests of both the upstream and downstream countries without doing any parties any harm," spokesman for the Egyptian cabinet Soliman Awwad said on Sunday.

Egypt and Sudan want to maintain the status quo stipulated in two colonial agreements they signed with Britain in 1929 and 1959, which granted them the right to use more than 85 percent of the Nile water.

However, upstream countries want to be able to use more of the Nile water for development projects.

The proposed framework agreement was first drafted in 2007 to establish a permanent Nile basin commission that includes all ten Nile riparian states: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, the democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

Source: Xinhua


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