In Summary
  • Egypt depends on the Nile for 90 percent of its water supply and sees the dam as an existential threat
  • The situation today seems a far cry from last year, when the International Crisis Group warned against "violent conflict" over the issue
  • A final agreement is now expected on January 29, overseen by the US Treasury Department and the World Bank

Progress towards a final agreement between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over what is set to be Africa's largest dam has eased tensions around Addis Ababa's mega-project on the Nile.

Egypt released a statement Thursday toning down years of rhetoric and suggesting a conciliatory approach ahead of a final accord.

That came shortly after the three countries announced a meeting in Washington on January 28-29 to finalise the deal.

Cairo intends "to continue its efforts towards concluding a balanced and just final agreement... which secures the three countries' common interests," the foreign ministry said in Cairo.

EXISTENTIAL THREAT

Egypt depends on the Nile for 90 percent of its water supply and sees the dam as an existential threat.

Ethiopia, which wants to boost its electricity supplies, insists that Egypt's access to water will not be affected.

After three days of talks in the US capital, the countries' foreign ministers "noted the progress achieved," in a joint statement released Wednesday.

A draft deal saw Ethiopia commit to fill the 1.8 kilometre dam, under construction since 2011, only during the rainy season.

The compromise sealed Wednesday is a sign of major progress after nearly a decade, said Hany Raslan, an expert on the issue at Cairo's Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

"This initial agreement is close to what the Egyptian side demanded but there are still many technical details to be ironed out," he added.

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