Egypt on Tuesday announced a complete plan for water conservation in parallel with convening a mini-African summit to discuss Ethiopia’s Renaissance dam project and to move forward with the dam’s troubled negotiations.

“Joint working groups have been formed between the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation and the Ministry of Housing to take necessary action to rationalize consumption of water and to maximize usage of the country’s water resources,” the Egyptian Council of Ministers said in a statement.

The statement added that the Council of Ministers approved plans to expand constructing desalination plants in the coastal governorships as well as to carry out projects for wastewater treatment for agricultural usage.

According to the statement, recommendations were issued to apply heavy penalties for water wastage.

Egypt’s announcement coincides with the convening of an online mini-African summit on Tuesday with the participation of Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Africa.

On Wednesday, Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele apologized and retracted a previous statement in which he was quoted by Ethiopia’s state-owned broadcaster as announcing the start of filling the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The three countries failed to reach an agreement on regulating water flow from the dam, amid continued fears by Egypt over its share of the water being reduced.

Ethiopia for its part said it has no intention of harming the interests of Egypt or Sudan, and the dam’s purpose is to generate electricity and promote development.

*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara

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