Egyptian 'suspicions' behind Ethiopia dam crisis: Sudan FM

The project has raised alarm bells in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, which fears a reduction of its historical share of Nile water.

The project has raised alarm bells in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, which fears a reduction of its historical share of Nile water.

ADDIS ABABA – Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said Egyptian "suspicions" regarding Ethiopia's multibillion-dollar hydroelectric Nile dam project had caused tensions between the two countries, asserting that dialogue remained the only means of resolving their differences.

"[Suspicions] have led to a kind of lack of confidence, especially on the Egyptian side," Karti told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

Ethiopia is currently building a $6.4-billion mega-dam on the Blue Nile, the waterway that represents Egypt's main source of water.

The project has raised alarm bells in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, which fears a reduction of its historical share of Nile water.

Water distribution among Nile basin states has long been regulated by a colonial-era treaty giving Egypt and Sudan the lion's share.

"The Egyptians have many questions about whether the dam will affect their water share," Karti said. "There are also technical questions about the dam itself."

The top diplomat said Sudan understood Egypt's concerns regarding the mega-dam project.

"The safety and efficiency of the dam is also our priority," he said.

Karti underlined the need for continuous dialogue between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia with a view to ironing out their differences.

"Dialogue is the ultimate solution to the differences that come to the surface every now and then," he said. "We strongly believe that all technical issues related to the dam should be put on the table for discussion."

Karti said Khartoum had repeatedly offered to mediate between Egypt and Ethiopia, even during the era of former president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in early 2011.

"They did not respond and did not take the matter seriously," he added.

"Egypt's rights are known. Ethiopia is also our neighbor and we want to make sure that its rights are safeguarded," said the Sudanese foreign minister.

"We want to ensure that all the countries that benefit from Blue Nile water will not be harmed," he added.

Citing its need for development, Ethiopia says it must build a series of dams to generate electricity both for local consumption and export.

When finished in 2017, the Grand Renaissance dam will have a 6000-megawatt production capacity, according to Ethiopian government sources.

Addis Ababa says the dam will benefit downstream states Sudan and Egypt, both of which will be invited to purchase the electricity thus generated.

-South Sudan-

The Sudanese foreign minister also called for a peaceful settlement to the conflict in neighboring South Sudan.

"The situation in South Sudan is a top priority," he told AA. "Sudan is exerting its utmost effort to restore peace and stability to South Sudan."

He lauded Sudan's relations with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir as "excellent."

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when Kiir accused his sacked vice president, Riek Machar, of attempting to overthrow his regime.

The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, with the U.N. estimating that around one million have been displaced by the violence.

Following weeks of peace talks in Addis Ababa sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East Africa trading bloc, the South Sudanese government and the rebels signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in January.

However, the two parties have yet to reach a comprehensive agreement to resolve the conflict.

The Sudanese foreign minister reiterated his support for IGAD's efforts to bring peace to South Sudan.

"We believe IGAD is acting neutrally. We fully support its efforts to resolve regional disputes and crises," Karti said.

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