Issues over shared Nile water resources have caused the recent fierce deadlock over negotiations for operating Ethiopia’s new giant hydroelectric dam. And Cairo has unveiled, on Wednesday November 6th, the results of the first meeting between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, held in Washington, over the contested topic.
The meeting, over the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD), was held in the presence of US President Donald Trump, and the three countries’ foreign ministers, together with a representative of the World Bank.
The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, said in a statement that the meetings had yielded positive results, that would set the course of future negotiations, and set a clear and specific timetable to end it.
Shoukry also pointed out the important role played by the Egyptian technical delegation, in holding intensive meetings to brief the US administration, and the World Bank on the overall technical and legal situation in Egypt from GERD.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers of the three countries of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, released a joint statement, with the participation of the World Bank and the U S on GERD talks, at the first meeting in Washington.
“Egypt is seeking to reach a balanced agreement that will enable Ethiopia to achieve the purpose of GERD, which is to generate electricity, without harming Egypt's water interests and rights, noting that the Nile water is an existential issue for Egypt,” Shoukry added.
He pointed out that the meetings will include two meetings in Washington at the invitation of the US Treasury Secretary, Stephen Mnuchin, to assess the progress made in these negotiations, and he appreciated the constructive role and attention paid to this topic, and that had been presided over with the ministers of the three countries involved.
For his part, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nebiat Getachew, said on Thursday November 7th, that his country did not consider talks in the U S on the issue of GERD as negotiations, or a mediation from US.
"These talks are not considered an area for technical negotiation, but Ethiopia is involved, as do the other parties, in order to clarify our position," the spokesman told the BBC.
"These are not negotiations, and the United States of America is not a mediator. This cannot be the right dialect for dialogue,” he added.
Resolving Difficulties Through Negotiation
The ministers of the three countries stressed the need to work towards an agreement by January 15, 2020, and that if no agreement is reached by the agreed date, a ‘Declaration of Principles’ will be invoked, according to a statement from the US Treasury Department on Wednesday November 6th.
This is a mechanism for adopting the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes by consensus, through consultations or negotiation, in accordance with the principle of good faith, the former minister for Irrigation and Water Resources, Nasreddine Allam, told 7Dnews on Thursday November 7th.
He added that the article stipulates that if the three states failed to resolve the dispute through consultations or negotiations, they can collectively seek conciliation, mediation, or refer the matter to the heads of the three states, or their prime ministers.
Allam pointed out that disputes between Egypt and Ethiopia are going around the topic of filling GERD’s reservoir, in addition to the operation of GERD, with the need not to affect the High Dam in Egypt and Sudan’s dams.
“Egypt’s main dispute with Ethiopia is to fill GERD’s reservoir with Nile water in four to seven years, instead of two years,” he explained.
The three states agreed on approving the presence of the World Bank and US during their meetings as observers, according to the statement out from the US Treasury Department
The deadlock of negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia on GERD has made Egyptians live in a state of anxiety over the future of their shared Nile water, especially after official statements came out to confirm that the construction of the dam will indeed affect Egypt's share of its water.
Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el- Sisi, said recently on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly held in New York, that the Renaissance Dam will not be operated by imposing a fait accompli, because Egypt has no other source of water except the Nile River, pointing out that 95% of Egypt's area is desert, and any damage to water supply will leave a negative effect.
"We are responsible for the security of our citizens," he said.
Egypt fears that the Ethiopian dam will damage its limited share of the Nile's water, estimated at 55.5 billion cubic metres, which more than 90% which is used for drinking, agriculture and industry. Cairo said Ethiopia has rejected its proposals on rules for filling and operating the dam.