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Viewing cable 09CAIRO1408, EGYPT ON NILE RIGHTS AND THE NILE BASIN INITIATIVE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO1408 2009-07-21 14:02 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #1408/01 2021431
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211431Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3240
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0349
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 0157
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 1339
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0420
C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 001408 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, AF/SPG, AF/E 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/15/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAGR ECON SU ET KE UG EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT ON NILE RIGHTS AND THE NILE BASIN INITIATIVE 
 
Classified By: Minister Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(C) Key Points: -- The Government of Egypt (GoE) believes that recent attempts by upstream Nile Basin countries to set up a Nile River Basin commission to review water issues violates the spirit of "consensus" and past Nile water agreements. -- According to Dr. Abdel Fattah Metawie, Chairman of the Nile Water Section in the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation. Egypt has sent a tough message to the upstream countries stating the Egypt will no longer provide development and water assistance to these countries if they continue on their current course. -- Egypt believes the other Nile Basin countries should respect Egypt's historical rights to the Nile River waters, decisions should be taken by consensus not voting, and upstream countries must notify and obtain the consent of downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan) for planned projects that could affect the flow of the river. -- Egypt would like the U.S. and other donor countries to stress that Nile water rights are a global, regional, and national security issue that must be resolved in the best interests of all countries. Metawie asked the USG to state its support for previous NBI agreements. -- The Nile Council of Ministers (Nile COM) will meet in Alexandria, Egypt from July 22-28 to discuss Nile water issues. The Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation invited Post to attend some of the conference sessions, and will provide us with a readout of the other meetings.

2.(C) Comment: Egypt's existence depends on the Nile. Growing populations in the Nile Basin, especially in Egypt and Ethiopia, are increasing the strain on Nile water resources. The Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation's monitors on a daily basis the water levels in the countries of Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda, underscoring the high value that the GoE places on this issue. Metawie implied throughout the meeting that use of the Nile by upstream countries for fisheries, tourism, electricity, and potable water would be tolerated, but its use for agricultural irrigation is not needed and extremely contentious. While Metawie asserts that the GoE's project work in upstream countries does not provide Egypt with benefits, these projects are in fact aimed at directly and indirectly benefiting Egypt by increasing the flow of Nile water and enhancing Egypt's relations with upstream countries and populations. End Comment. --------------------------------------- A Row over Nile Water Rights Agreements ---------------------------------------

3.(C) The GoE believes that recent attempts by upstream Nile Basin countries (Ethiopia, Burundi, D.R. Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda) to set up a Nile River Basin commission to review water issues lays the groundwork for "abuse of Nile waters," and violates the spirit of "consensus" and past Nile water agreements. Dr. Abdel Fattah Metawie, Chairman of the Nile Water Section in the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, in a July 12 meeting, admitted that past "colonial" agreements on Nile waters, enacted in 1929 and 1959, contain "harsh language" toward upstream countries, but these agreements take into account the realities of rainfall and water usage in the Nile Basin. The GoE, according to Metawie, sent a tough message to the upstream countries stating the Egypt will no longer provide development and water assistance to upstream countries if they continue to pursue a commission. The letter encourages the countries to "review their decision" and engage in cooperation, not fighting. This topic will be addressed at Nile COM meetings in Alexandria, Egypt from July 22-28. -------------------------------------------- Solution is in Consensus-Building and the NBI --------------------------------------------

4.(C) According to Metawie, the Egyptian position at the Nile COM meetings will be that the all Nile countries must respect Egypt's historical rights to the river waters, decisions should be taken by consensus, not voting, and upstream countries must notify and obtain the consent of downstream countries for planned projects that could affect the flow of the river. He specifically mentioned Ethiopian plans for dams. Metawie stated that the Egyptian principles will lead to "water security and mutual respect for the uses and rights of all riparian countries." He told us that Egypt sees the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) as a way to preserve its historic rights to Nile waters and to provide benefits to other riparian countries. Metawie said that any NBI decision should focus on management of Nile waters so as to not cause harm to any riparian country and create a "win-win" situation for all countries. ------------------------------------------ Egyptian Efforts to Develop Upstream Areas ------------------------------------------

5.(SBU) Metawie told us that the GoE has carried out projects in upstream countries and transferred technologies that have allowed these countries to make full use of the Nile, but have no direct benefit to Egypt. The GoE spent USD 26 million in southern Sudan to rehabilitate water stations, train water management officials, conduct a hydro-electric dam study, and provide drinking water. Egypt helped Uganda build dams for hydro-electrical power, and spent USD 18.4 million to clear aquatic weeds from the Nile and equatorial lakes. Egypt also spent USD 6-7 million to dig 150 wells in Kenya and 30 in Tanzania. Egypt provided Ethiopia with engineer training, consulting on sight selection and dam construction, and provided electrical cable for hydro-electric power projects. --------------------------------------------- ----- Politics and Lack of Expertise Exacerbate Problems --------------------------------------------- -----

6.(C) Metawie stated that the topic of water rights in upstream countries has become fodder for "local political consumption." Upstream countries often blame Egypt for their water problems, but these concerns are "unsubstantiated." According to Metawie, the problem is the lack of water expertise in upstream countries and non-consensual decision-making. As examples, he said that the Ugandan water ministry has 20 engineers, while Egyptian ministry has thousands. He also stated that Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda consistently battle over Lake Victoria water management because of Uganda's unilateral decision to release more water to its dams to increase hydro-electrical output. Metawie stated that upstream countries do not need to use the Nile for irrigation purposes because "they have enough rain to sustain agriculture." Recent statements by officials in water ministries in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, Metawie claimed, have shown a lack of understanding about agriculture, the use of Nile waters, and the importance of the Nile in downstream countries. -------------------------------------- Sudan's Merowe Dam Does not Hurt Egypt --------------------------------------

7.(C) Metawie told us that Egypt was unaffected by the construction and filling of the Merowe Dam, which was constructed to increase hydro-electrical capacity in Sudan. He claimed that the Lake Nasser reservoir gave Egypt the ability to exist for two years without any additional Nile water flow. The Merowe dam's water storage is only 12 billion cubic meters (8 billion cubic meters live storage and 4 billion cubic meters dead storage), so it had little effect on Egypt's water supply. Metawie said that Sudan has filled the Merowe dam's reservoir and last week it released water from the dam to make room for new water flows from the current seasonal rains in southern Sudan. ---------------------------------- The U.S. Role on Nile Water Rights ----------------------------------

8.(C) Metawie asked the USG to state its support for previous NBI agreements. He encouraged the U.S. as a donor country to convey the message that water rights are a global, regional, and national security issue and they must be resolved in the best interests of all countries. Tueller