Addis Ababa – Israeli Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir has voiced Israel’s readiness to assist Egypt and Ethiopia reach agreement over the latter’s construction of a multibillion-dollar hydroelectric dam on the Nile River.
According to Ethiopia’s state-run news agency, Shamir made the remarks at a Thursday meeting in Addis Ababa with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn.
The agency did not specify how Israel intends to assist both countries in ironing out their differences over the dam.
Relations between Ethiopia and Egypt soured last year over construction of Ethiopia`s Grand Renaissance Dam on the upper reaches of the Nile – Egypt`s main source of water.
The controversial project raised alarm bells in Egypt, the Arab world`s most populous country, which fears a reduction of its traditional share of Nile water.
Water distribution among Nile Basin states has long been based on a colonial-era agreement granting Egypt and Sudan the lion`s share of the river`s water.
Addis Ababa insists the new dam will benefit downstream states Sudan and Egypt, both of which will be invited to purchase electricity thus generated.
Ethiopia`s Foreign Ministry, for one, welcomed Israel`s offer.
“Any country like Israel may raise such idea and Ethiopia appreciates this,” Jemal Beker, director of Middle East affairs at the ministry, told Anadolu Agency.
He said Ethiopia was ready to negotiate a “win-win solution” with Egypt based on the framework of a tripartite dialogue initiative that also includes Sudan and an international panel of experts.
“There`s a technical negotiation underway,” Beker said. “It has no political nature.”
“Egypt withdrew from the tripartite negotiation,” said the diplomat. “But Ethiopia believes Egypt will be back and negotiations will continue.”
The state news agency quoted the dam`s chief engineer, Simegnew Bekele, as saying that a full one third of the project had been completed.
Bekele added that the project`s total workforce would be raised from 7500 to 13,000 in the months ahead.