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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09CAIRO1506 2009-08-04 15:14:00 SECRET Embassy Cairo
Cable title:  

NO AGREEMENT ON WATER SHARING AT NILE COM MEETINGS

Tags:   PGOV PREL EG 
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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #1506/01 2161514
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 041514Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3337
					  S E C R E T CAIRO 001506 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, AF/SPG, AF/E, OES FOR SALZBERG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/29/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL EG
SUBJECT: NO AGREEMENT ON WATER SHARING AT NILE COM MEETINGS

Classified By: Minister Counselor for for Economic and Political Affairs Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(C) Key Points: -- The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) ministers failed to reach consensus on a Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) for water sharing during July 27-28 meetings in Alexandria, but agreed to a Sudanese proposal to continue CFA negotiations for six months. -- The seven upstream countries and two downstream countries appear far from agreement. Egypt insists on a "guarantee" of its water quota and upstream countries reject this because they want to increase their use of Nile water to develop agricultural industries. -- Numerous meetings between Ethiopian and Egyptian representatives during and subsequent to the conference may signal the possibility for Addis Ababa to play a moderating role between upstream and downstream countries. -- A cooperative mood prevailed at the Nile Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meetings on July 25-26. Many participants hope that the future focus of the NBI will be on technology transfer and benefit-sharing. -- The British, Canadian, and UNDP representatives all support the creation of a formal government institution as the best way to manage the NBI process.

2.(S) Comment: Egyptian officials were extremely tense during the conference. PM Ahmed Nazif, Minister of Water Resources Mohamed Nasr Al Din Allam, Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Aboul Naga, and the assistant and deputy assistant ministers from the Egyptian MFA's Africa and Sudan offices attended. The broad senior-level participation reflects the paramount importance that the GoE places on the Nile waters issue and its concern over the direction of the NBI. Egypt views access to its quota of Nile waters as a national security issue, and creation of a system that threatens this quota will be seen as an existential threat, possibly forcing Egypt to withdraw from the NBI. Based on discussions among donor countries, there may be an opportunity for Ethiopia to play a moderating role in the current impasse as the only country that has a level of trust from among both upstream and downstream countries. End Comment.

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No Agreement; Negotiations Extended

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3.(C) NBI ministers failed to reach consensus on a CFA for water sharing during July 25-28 meetings in Alexandria, but agreed to continue CFA negotiations for six months. However, the seven upstream countries and two downstream countries are far from reaching an acceptable agreement. Egypt opposed an agreement, proposed by seven upstream countries, to create a Nile Basin Commission to decide on water usage and allocation because it failed to guarantee Egypt's access to 55.5 billion cubic meters of water annually, as guaranteed by the 1959 Nile Waters Agreement. Upstream countries led by Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda argued that climate change has changed the circumstances, making it difficult to rely on rain-fed agriculture, and they need to use Nile water for agriculture, power, fisheries, and other water-dependent industries necessary for their "security." Egypt, with some support from Sudan, maintained that downstream countries must approve any water use by upstream countries that could reduce their "guaranteed quotas" of water and threaten their existence.

4.(C) Mohamed El Mullah, Egyptian MFA cabinet advisor for African Affairs told Poloff on July 30 that Tanzania presented a paper in closed door meetings agreeing to a six-month delay in signing an agreement during which the TAC and negotiation committee will propose solutions on the way forward. However, the Tanzanian paper states that the Kinshasa and Nairobi conferences will serve as the basis for future negotiations. According to El Mullah, Egypt will present a counter-paper stating that Egypt and Sudan believe that the Kinshasa and Nairobi conferences were "improper" and "illegal" and cannot be the basis for any negotiations. Egypt will also assert that article 14 (b) of the CFA on water usage and allocation must be included in a CFA and cannot be part of an annex.

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Sudan: A More Nuanced View

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5.(C) Sudan's Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Ali Kamal said on July 27 that "extreme" Nile Basin countries should reconsider attempts to sign the CFA to give time for "cool down" and further negotiations. Kamal El Din Ali, the head of the Sudanese National Congress Party (NCP) office in Cairo told us on July 30 the Government of Sudan proposed the delay in negotiations in Alexandria to avert problems. He said upstream countries listened because they "trust Sudan more than Egypt." Ali acknowledged Egypt is in the most precarious position because it relies on the Nile for 95% of its water needs, while Sudan only gets 60% of its water from the Nile. However, he said Egypt needs to show more flexibility by not insisting on its "historical rights," and blocking Nile development projects in Sudan and other upstream countries. Ali said Egypt should use its expertise to assist upstream countries to better manage water resources and help them to meet their water needs. (Note: Egypt engages in development projects in upstream countries aimed at increasing water flow and reducing evaporation. End Note).

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-- Egypt and Ethiopia: Compromise or Confrontation

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--

6.(C) The Egyptian and Ethiopian water ministers met bilaterally behind closed doors on July 26. This meeting was followed by an Eastern Nile (Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan) ministers meeting. Egyptian MFA's El Mullah told us Ethiopia's stated concern with the legality of the Kinshasa and Nairobi meetings earned it Egypt's confidence and respect. According to the African Infrastructure advisor at the British Department for International Development, the successful Eastern Nile meeting showed that there may be growing trust in Ethiopia's role as a broker between the upstream and downstream countries. She said that this could lead to the creation of multi-purpose dams in Ethiopia, which would allow Egypt to draw down Lake Nasser and reduce evaporation in the Nile Basin. (Note Lake Nasser loses more than 10 billion cubic meters per year to evaporation. End Note). A Canadian Emboff who attended the conference told us that Ethiopian Minister of Water Resources Asfaw Dingamo appeared to play a moderating role between Egypt and Sudan on one side and Kenya and Tanzania on the other during the July 28 closed door session.

7.(C) David Grey, Head of Global Water Resources for the World Bank, doubted that Ethiopia and Egypt could reach an agreement on Nile waters in the near future. He said Egyptian President Mubarak and Ethiopian President Meles have taken public positions on Nile water issues that impinge upon their ability to compromise. Grey stated that concessions by either leader would be viewed as a capitulation by their respective populations.

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Spirit of Cooperation Prevails in the TAC

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8.(C) All nine countries praised the work of the Nile TAC, which preceded the ministerial meetings on July 25-26, in implementing development projects. According to Egypt's TAC chair Wael Khairy, the NBI currently has 25 development projects in numerous Nile Basin countries. However, he noted privately that none were in Egypt. Mirey Atallah, Regional Team Leader at the UNDP, said the future of the NBI must focus on concept of technology transfer and benefit-sharing under the auspices of the TAC. She stated that even if future water quotas are reduced, different technologies that can increase "production per drop" would help enhance agricultural production throughout the Nile Basin. Atallah stated that Egypt is the most technologically advanced of the NBI countries, possesses the "best economy," and must realize the responsibilities that come with being the basin's "hegemon." She said the NBI stresses regional cooperation, which she contends is intended to level the playing field and benefit the less developed countries. El Mullah stated the GoE is anxious to continue helping with development projects in other NBI countries, but in return it needs to guarantee its water rights. Otherwise, Egypt fears "the NBI is all give and no take."

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Need for an Regional Institution to Manage the Process

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10.(C) The British, Canadian, and UNDP representatives all support the creation of a formal government institution as the best way to manage the NBI process. The World Bank's Grey said the Bank is not opposed to the formation of a formal institution before resolving the status of water rights, but opined that Egypt will never agree. Egyptian MFA's El Mullah told us that Egypt may consider supporting the formation of a formal Nile Basin institution that made decisions based on "consensus." However, he expressed concern that if the GoE engages in upstream development and agrees to defer work on water usage and allocation, it will be left hanging without a future "guarantee" that it can obtain its water rights.

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Egyptian Water Minister Attempts To Engage

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11.(C) Dr. Abdel Fattah Metawie, Chairman of the Nile Water section in the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources said the African delegations are often difficult to engage with because they have a "racial and tribal orientation." However, he told us Minister Allam had a made it a priority to reach out to the Africans to work cooperatively on riparian issues. Allam was very friendly to all participants and he personally greeted all people in the room. He made a proactive effort to engage with African delegations. However, Grey blamed Allam for the current impasse. He said Allam's "harsh approach" in Kinshasa where he "demanded Egypt's historical rights" and the DRC's poor management had created a "divided group." SCOBEY