Reuters in Addis Ababa
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 13 June 2013 15.05 BST
Ethiopia’s parliament has unanimously ratified a treaty that strips Egypt of its right to the lion’s share of the Nile river waters, raising the political temperature in a dispute between Cairo and Addis Ababa over the construction of a dam.
The parliament’s move follows days of irate exchanges between two of Africa’s most populous nations over Ethiopia’s new hydroelectric plant, which Egypt fears will reduce a water supply vital for its 84 million people.
Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi said on Monday he did not want “war” but would keep “all options open”, prompting Ethiopia to say it was ready to defend its $4.7bn Great Renaissance Dam near the border with Sudan.
Six Nile-basin countries including Ethiopia have signed a deal effectively stripping Cairo of its veto, which is based in colonial-era treaties, over dam projects on the Nile, the source of nearly all Egypt’s water.
Ethiopia’s late leader Meles Zenawi had delayed parliamentary ratification until Egypt elected a new government.
“Most of the upstream countries have approved it through their parliaments. We delayed it as a gesture of goodwill to the people of Egypt until a formal elected government was in place,” Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon told Reuters.
“We have a principled stance on the construction of dams. We are determined to see our projects brought to completion.”
Another government spokesman, Shimeles Kemal, said Ethiopia’s 547-seat legislature had voted to “incorporate the treaty into domestic law”.
Egyptian foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr is expected to travel to Addis Ababa on Sunday for talks about the dam, though Ethiopia’s foreign ministry has said there can be no question of suspending construction.