Minister: Nile dam talks reach preliminary agreement

The three main countries that share the Nile River's waters have reached a preliminary agreement on a mechanism for operating the Renaissance Dam, the Egyptian water minister said on Friday.

The planned $4 billion Renaissance Dam will be Africa's biggest dam and aims to provide cheap power for countries as far away as South Africa and Morocco.

The project, being built by Italy's Salini Impregilo SpA , aims to produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity for a power-hungry region.

But it has raised concerns in Egypt, which relies almost exclusively on the Nile River for farming, industry and drinking water for a rapidly growing population.

"The principles that were agreed to are concerned with the systems and mechanism for operating the Renaissance Dam and the mechanism for cooperation on this dam," said Egyptian water minister Hossam Moghazy after talks in Khartoum.

Sudanese foreign minister, Ali Ahmed Karti, said the countries had reached agreement on "principles that govern us on how to benefit from the Eastern Nile Basin and the Renaissance Dam … the document represents the beginning of a new page in relations between the three countries".

The deal will now be sent to the leaders of the three countries for final approval, he said, at the end of three days of tripartite meetings with the countries' foreign and water ministers.

Ethiopian foreign minister Tadros Adhanom said the principles represented a "new chapter" in relations between the three countries.

The ministers did not elaborate on specific points of the deal.

Cairo is concerned that years of filling the new dam's 74 billion cubic metre reservoir will temporarily cut the river's flow, and that surface water evaporation from the huge new lake will then reduce it permanently.

Moghazy said the name of the consultancy firm that will undertake environmental and water studies on the Dam will be announced on March 9.

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