A break-up of Egypt’s southern neighbour Sudan would not diminish Egypt’s share of the Nile, its main source of water, state media quoted the Egyptian water minister as saying.
Egypt, locked in a dispute with upstream nations, is watching south Sudan’s independence referendum for any effect on colonial-era treaties that give it the bulk of the river’s flow.
Sudan, which gets the Nile’s second biggest share under the treaties, has backed Egypt, but analysts say an independent south might be less likely to do so, Reuters reports.
South Sudanese started voting on Sunday on whether the south should secede from the north, the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of brutal civil war.
The country is widely expected to choose independence.
“Egypt’s quota from the Nile River will not be affected by a division of Sudan, in accordance with the international agreements and treaties that govern this issue,” the state news agency MENA cited Egyptian Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Nasreddin Allam as saying.
“The only difference if there is a division of Sudan would be a division of Sudan’s quota between north and south, without encroaching on Egypt’s quota.”
A U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks showed Egyptian officials lobbied to delay the independence referendum last year because they feared it might imperil Egypt’s share of Nile waters.
Egypt has since moved to improve ties with southern Sudan, granting money for water and electricity projects and starting direct flights between Cairo and Juba, the capital of south Sudan, on its flagship carrier.
An estimated 2 million died and another 4 million were forced to flee during Sudan’s civil war, which broke out in the 1950s at the time of independence.