US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is tasked by US President Donald Trump as the host and mediator in talks in Washington on Wednesday between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the Renaissance Dam crisis.
White House sources noted that the US side was not enthusiastic at all to enter the line of crisis, but the Egyptian pressure on one hand, in addition to Washington’s concern about Russian intervention on the other, prompted the US administration to take over the file.
The sources said that Washington wanted the meetings to result in positive steps and an agreement from the three parties on a timetable for technical negotiations, or at the very least to raise differences and try to hold a second meeting in which an agreement is signed.
World Bank Director David Malpass is taking part in the meetings, raising questions about US attempts to exploit the World Bank’s capacity and development projects on the African continent to pressure the three parties and encourage them to reach agreements.
Cairo had earlier proposed the intervention of the World Bank in the negotiations, but Ethiopia has repeatedly refused.
Senior sources within the World Bank told Asharq Al-Awsat that the latter had three possible roles during the meeting. The first is to provide technical expertise in an impartial manner, and to propose technical assistance on any scenario.
Second, the Bank can propose an integrated development project involving all the Nile Basin countries (11 countries) and the restructuring of the entire water system, which means reviving the old Nile Basin Initiative that was stopped in 2007.
The third role is that in the event of a deadlock, countries can refer to the World Bank as an arbitrator to resolve the dispute.
For eight years, Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa have been engaged in technical meetings - interrupted by political unrest - on state water quotas and reservoir filling periods, the total storage capacity of the dam, and drought periods.
The three countries signed a 10-point framework agreement in 2015 on the dam's operations and state quotas, but disagreement over the mechanisms of operation and storage capacity continued.