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Cablegate: Egyptian Water Minister On the Nile Basin Initiative

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #1897/01 2770717
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 040717Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3766
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0353
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 0091
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 1372

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 001897

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, AF/SPG, AF/E, ADDIS ABABA FOR
BAUMAN, OES/ENV FOR SALZBERG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/24/2019
TAGS: PREL SU TZ ET CG EG
SUBJECT: EGYPTIAN WATER MINISTER ON THE NILE BASIN INITIATIVE REF: CAIRO 1506 Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(C) Key Points: -- Egypt's Water Ministry officials plan to engage with the NBI countries to solidify their alliances and seek a compromise on the CFA before the February 2010 NileCOM meetings in Sharm El Sheikh. -- Egypt's Water Minister claimed the Government of Egypt (GoE) would welcome U.S. and other donor involvement to help resolve the impasse over the Nile Basin Initiative's (NBI) proposed Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA). -- The Egyptian Water Minister doubts that the World Bank can play a constructive role in the future of the NBI and blames the Bank for the current impasse.

2.(C) Comment: In the next five months, in the run up to the next NileCOM meeting, we expect Egypt to proactively engage with upstream countries by offering assistance building wells and hydro-electric dams in order to sway their opinions on the proposed CFA. Some of our Egyptian contacts believe the U.S. and donor countries could help to mediate between the NBI countries and have approached us several times seeking contact with USG officials who deal with these issues. -------------- NBI Background --------------

3.(U) The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was launched in February 1999 to create a shared vision, establish policy guidelines for cooperative and efficient use of Nile water resources, and promote economic development. The crux of the Egypt's disagreement with the proposed CFA rests on three principles. First, Egypt believes that upstream countries should be required to obtain the approval of downstream countries (i.e. Egypt and Sudan) before beginning any project that could affect the flow of the Nile. Second, Egypt wants the CFA to guarantee it's access to an annual quota of 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile waters, which is based on a 1959 Nile agreement signed by Egypt and Sudan. Finally, Egypt feels that Article 14 (b) of the CFA should commit NBI states "not to adversely affect the water security and current uses and rights of any other Nile Basin state." The proposed version reads that "Nile Basin states agree not to significantly affect the water security of any other Nile Basin state." -------------------------------------------- Egypt Would Welcome Donor Country Assistance --------------------------------------------

4.(C) Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Nasr El Din Allam told Poloff on September 17 he thought a compromise on the CFA could be reached by February 2010. However, he said FM Aboul Gheit and the Egyptian MFA believe the possibility for a resolution is remote. Allam said he had spoken with Egyptian PM Ahmed Nazif and they both welcomed the involvement of donor countries, including the U.S., to help reach a resolution on the CFA. Ambassador Mohamed Rafik Khalil, the political advisor to the Water Ministry, in a separate meeting on September 17, said he was skeptical that a deal could be reached by February 2010. Khalil told us the Egyptian MFA would welcome assistance from the U.S. and other donor countries to try to resolve the impasse. --------------------------------------------- ------------ Engaging Countries to Find a Solution; Solidify Alliances --------------------------------------------- ------------

5.(C) Minister Allam said he was reaching out to other NBI countries and he hoped that a late September NBI meeting in Uganda, visits by Egyptian officials to upstream countries, and a second NBI meeting in December in Tanzania would provide opportunities for NBI countries to reach a mutually beneficial solution that could be finalized at the February 2010 NileCom in Sharm El Sheikh. He told us that an agreement to build wells for agricultural development in Tanzania had been reached. Allam stated that some countries, such as Tanzania, which were publicly vocal about Nile Waters, are privately agreeable to compromise. He said other countries that are publicly quiet are less likely to compromise. Allam mentioned that although he and Ethiopian Water Minister Asfaw Dinagmo are friends, they don't always agree on Nile Water issues. Ambassador Khalil told us that a September 13-16 trip by an Egyptian Water Ministry officials to Khartoum and Juba was made to ensure that the two countries don't vary from "our common position." ------------------------------------- Allam Skeptical about World Bank Role -------------------------------------

6.(C) Allam expressed skepticism about the World Bank's ability to handle the NBI. He said that the World Bank's Head of Global Water Resources, David Grey pushed too hard to get a CFA without the consent of all the countries involved, and World Bank Nile Program Coordinator Barbara Miller lacks experience and credibility. According to Allam, Grey's actions led to problems in both the Nairobi and Kinshasa meetings. Allam believes that Egypt was able to "control and ease tensions a little" during the late July NileCOM meetings in Alexandria (reftel). Scobey

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