Civilian agency presses for Nile Basin affairs ministry

Participants in the annual conference of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs (ECFA), an independent civilian agency, suggested on Tuesday the establishment of a new ministry to manage relations with Nile Basin states.

The request comes in light of a recent regional dispute over Nile flow re-distribution.

The meeting's closing session recommended the proposed ministry fall under the president's direct command, to operate in coordination with other ministries and state authorities.

Attendants also suggested a national water security council to review and develop Egypt's water-related policies and to provide advice on water rationing.

ECFA's members include ministers, businessmen, economists, and military experts. The agency promotes Egypt's national interests in foreign affairs.

The dispute between Nile Basin countries and downstream states erupted after Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania signed the Entebbe framework agreement in May, despite Egyptian and Sudanese opposition.

Egypt enjoys a lion's share of Nile waters (51 billion square meters annually) based on an accord signed in 1959 with Sudan, which acquired 18 billion square meters of water in the deal.

Egypt says both the 1959 agreement, as well as another accord signed in 1929 with British colonialists, stipulate prior approval by all Nile Basin states before implementation of any water-utilization projects.

Egypt’s firm stance on the historical agreements has provoked criticism from basin states, which argue the deals were ratified before they gained independence and are, therefore, invalid.

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