Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

No resolution expected

Another meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was not expected to reach a breakthrough

No  resolution expected
No resolution expected

A meeting attended by heads of intelligence, ministers of foreign affairs and irrigation of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was held in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, reports Doaa El-Bey.

While the outcome of the gathering was unclear as Al-Ahram Weekly went to press, expectations were mixed.

Hani Raslan, an analyst at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told the Weekly that the nine-party meeting had a certain mechanism that should give these meetings the power to achieve something.

The heads of intelligence services of the three states attended the meeting to prove that issues related to water sharing are not merely technical but also have political and strategic dimensions, according to Raslan.

However, Rakha Hassan, former assistant to Egypt’s foreign minister, did not expect a genuine breakthrough from the meeting because of the political changes that Ethiopia has recently seen.

“Abiy Ahmed, the new prime minister who was sworn in last month, belongs to the Oromo tribe which has always been in the opposition. Given the fact that he is new in office will make it unlikely that he will be willing to take stands that clearly contradict his predecessor,” Hassan said.

On the sidelines of the nine-party meeting, Ahmed held a meeting with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri and Abbas Kamel, the Egyptian intelligence chief. The meeting was described as friendly and transparent in a statement issued by Egypt’s Foreign Ministry.

This is the second nine-party meeting to be held with the aim of resolving the differences facing the technical track of the negotiations, including agreeing on the preliminary report issued last year.

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

The preliminary report was supposed to determine the steps needed to be taken in order to finish studies by consultants on the ecological, social and economic impact of the dam.

The timetable for filling the dam’s reservoir, and the operating protocols of the dam, are two other contentious issues the three countries need to resolve.

Disagreement over the preliminary report stymied the last nine-party 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 upon.

Sudan’s then foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour argued more time was needed to resolve outstanding issues which should be left to the technical committee of the three countries.

But this is exactly what Addis Ababa has been doing in the last few years. “It is allowing time to pass in negotiations while the dam is becoming a de facto reality on the ground,” Hassan said.

Ethiopia declared in October last year that more than 60 per cent of the dam had been constructed when the technical committee had been holding meetings for two years with no results.

And that is what minister Shoukri warned against, Hassan added.

He stressed during a joint press conference with his visiting French counterpart in Cairo last month the need to accelerate the pace of negotiations “after some three years or more have passed since the signing of the Declaration of Principles in Khartoum after which things remained frozen.”

Raslan also pointed out that playing for time is a clear Ethiopian strategy that aims to impose facts on the ground without having any legal commitments.

Addis Ababa, he added, insists on that strategy at a time when Egypt chose to show flexibility and stick to the negotiating process with the aim of reaching a settlement acceptable and fair to the three parties.

“Thus, Egypt has been able to prove to the world that its case is just and that it has the right to defend the legitimate rights of the people and their right to survive,” he said.

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 the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be the largest in Africa. Its reservoir has a capacity of 74 billion cubic metres.

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