Wednesday,20 June, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1393, (10 - 16 May 2018)
Wednesday,20 June, 2018
Issue 1393, (10 - 16 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

More meetings, no breakthrough

The latest tripartite meeting fails to nudge negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam forward, writes Doaa El-Bey

 

More meetings, no breakthrough
More meetings, no breakthrough

Simply returning to the negotiating table should not be regarded as an achievement. It is the outcome of meetings that counts, said a diplomatic source speaking on condition of anonymity. He was referring to the latest tripartite technical meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), held between the irrigation ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan earlier this week in Addis Ababa which ended without tangible results.

“Egypt has shown flexibility during the negotiations. We have reached the stage when there has to be sufficient will to make compromises and resolve outstanding issues,” he said.

Egypt stands by its position on the preliminary technical report, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said in a press conference with his Ugandan counterpart Sam Kutessa this week in Cairo.

The preliminary report prepared by two French consultancies last year established the methodology of further impact studies. Egypt accepted the preliminary report while Sudan and Ethiopia expressed reservations.

“Egypt will continue its efforts to reach a solution in line with international treaties regulating transnational rivers,” said Shoukri.

A meeting between the three countries’ ministers of foreign affairs and irrigation and intelligence chiefs has been scheduled for 15 May. Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s minister of water and irrigation, was quoted in the media saying preparations for the talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are underway.

The preliminary report was supposed to determine the steps needed to be taken in order to finish the consultants’ studies on the ecological, social and economic impacts of the dam, including options for filling the dam’s reservoir and operating its hydroelectric facilities. The timetable for filling the reservoir, and the operating protocols of the dam, are among the most contentious of the issues the three countries need to resolve.

Disagreement over the preliminary report stymied the last nine-sided meeting, held in Khartoum last month. According to Shoukri, while the meeting touched on several outstanding issues it resulted in no specific action being agreed.

Sudan’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Ghandour argues more time is needed to resolve outstanding issues which should be left to the technical committee of the three countries.

“But time,” warns the diplomat, “is the last thing Egypt can afford now more than 60 per cent of the dam has been constructed and the technical committee has been holding meetings for two years with no results.”

Ethiopia began work on the dam in 2011. Egypt has repeatedly expressed its concerns that the dam will reduce its 55.5 billion cubic metre share of Nile water enshrined in the 1929 and 1959 Nile Water agreements.

Ethiopia insists the dam, which it says is being constructed mainly to generate electricity, will harm neither Sudan nor Egypt.

Addis Ababa plans to start filling the reservoir later this year. When completed GERD will be the largest dam in Africa. Its reservoir has a capacity of 74 billion cubic metres.

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