Foreign minister rules out military solution for Nile water disputes

Egypt's foreign minister has ruled out military action to solve disagreements over water shares, after Ethiopia and other basin countries signed a deal in 2010 to redistribute them without Egypt's approval.

Asked whether Egypt would opt to use military force in case negotiations with Nile Basin countries failed, Mohamed Kamel Amr said in a statement on Monday that Egypt prefers instead to rely on “understanding and common interests.

"The Nile River should unite, rather than divide, nations," he told the press at a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Mohamed Ali Palace in Cairo.

Egypt, threatened by rising temperatures and a growing population, is almost entirely dependent on the Nile for its water, and the government fears that the new agreement would negatively affect its large share of water from the Nile.

Amr added that President Mohamed Morsy would discuss water distribution issues with African leaders, including those of Nile Basin countries. He noted, however, that the crisis would not be on the agenda at the 21st African Union Summit, that the Egyptian president is to attend on 26 and 27 May.

Amr added that Egypt is concerned with other important issues in Africa, including development, common markets, and cooperation in infrastructure and trade. He maintained that trade and economic cooperation cannot exist without a common transportation network.

Believing that the old treaty regulating the usage of Nile water, signed between Egypt and Britain in 1929, did not represent their interests, in 2010, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania signed a new agreement in Entebbe, Uganda, redistributing water shares. Burundi joined them in 2011.

Egypt, which receives the lion's share of the Nile's water, has declared its rejection of any deal that does not preserve its historical right to 51 billion square meters of water annually, in accordance to a deal signed with Sudan in 1959, which also assured the latter 18 billion square meters of water a year.