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Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan Sign Deal on Nile Dam

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, (c), Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, (l), and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, (r), hold hands after signing an agreement on sharing water from the Nile River, in Khartoum, Sudan, March 23, 2015.

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have signed a preliminary deal on sharing water from the Nile River, allowing Ethiopia to continue with its construction of a massive new dam.

The leaders said the "declaration of principles" would pave the way for further diplomatic cooperation on the Grand Renaissance Dam, which has stirred fears of a regional resource conflict. No details of the agreement were immediately released.

Ethiopia's Minister of Water, Alemayehu Tegenu, on Monday told VOA's Horn of Africa Service the countries agreed that water from the Nile is essential for all three nations, both for human uses and development activities.

He said it took officials from the three countries months to create a common ground of understanding that includes seven basic principles, including not causing significant harm to one another and resolving misunderstandings through peaceful means. Details of specific procedures will be worked out in a later agreement.

The leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed the preliminary deal in Khartoum Monday.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the $4 billion hydroelectric dam that his country is building will not disrupt the flow of the Nile, which mainly originates in Ethiopia.

"I want to assure the people of Egypt and the people of Sudan that this construction will cause no significant harm to the people of the three countries, and specifically to that of Egypt,'' Hailemariam said.

Egypt, which relies on the river for agriculture and drinking water, has feared the dam would decrease its water supply.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said his country has sought assurances that the dam will not significantly cut the river's flow to Egypt's growing population.

"You will develop and grow and I am with you, but beware that in Egypt the people live only on the water that comes from this river,'' el-Sissi said.

FILE - Laborers work at the Grand Renaissance Dam in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz region, Ethiopia, March 16, 2014
FILE - Laborers work at the Grand Renaissance Dam in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz region, Ethiopia, March 16, 2014

Water issues in the region have flared for decades.

More than two-thirds of the Blue Nile tributary originates in Ethiopia. But colonial-era treaties gave Egypt and Sudan the majority of the Nile's water.

Ethiopia began constructing the dam several years ago with the goal of producing power for itself and nearby countries.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.