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Ethiopia, Egypt Exchange Accusations on Deadlocked Renaissance Dam Talks

Ethiopia, Egypt Exchange Accusations on Deadlocked Renaissance Dam Talks

Thursday, 18 June, 2020 - 05:45
Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the Nile. Reuters file photo

Negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) continued for the seventh day between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan in hopes for reaching a solution to the legal points on water sharing.

Cairo and Addis Ababa exchanged verbal accusations, with Egypt threatening to resort to the UN Security Council, and Ethiopia saying that Cairo’s position has become an obstacle in the ongoing talks.

The negotiations were held via video conferencing with the participation of observers from the United States, the European Union, and South Africa, which is the current chair of the African Union.

Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas announced that the three countries agreed on the majority of the technical issues. However, Egypt wants to sign a comprehensive agreement to fill and operate the dam, which Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, before beginning to fill the reservoir as scheduled in July.

The Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Gedu Andargachew, accused Egypt of obstructing the negotiations, stressing that Cairo is only looking for its own interest.

"Egypt came to the latest negotiation with one leg on the talks and another aimed at lodging a complaint to the UN Security Council," Andargachew said, according to state-owned Ethiopian News Agency (ENA).

"Egypt wants to take everything for itself with no willingness to give," he was quoted as saying.

On Monday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry warned that Cairo may resort to the Security Council to prevent Ethiopia from taking any “unilateral” action on the hydropower project if Addis Ababa remains "intransigent."

He pointed out that the recent tripartite talks did not yield positive results due to the Ethiopian obstinacy.

Meanwhile, informed sources said the countries agree on the technical issues relating to the safety of the dam, filling it during the upcoming Ethiopian rain season and in regular seasons, and drought management rules.

However, differences remain on a number of legal matters such as mandatory clauses that ensure compliance and mechanisms to resolve disputes.

Sudan suggested holding negotiations at the level of prime ministers if no agreement was reached, but Ethiopia and Egypt preferred to continue talks among water resources ministers and legal experts.

In 2015, the leaders of the three countries signed an initial agreement on the Renaissance Dam to guarantee Egypt’s share of 55 billion cubic meters of the Nile water.

Egyptian water expert Mohamed Nasreddine Allam said that the negotiations could end with one of three possible scenarios. He believes Ethiopia could hold onto its position, after which Egypt will announce the failure of the talks and warn Addis Ababa against filling the dam, further escalating the situation.

Allam indicated that the second possible outcome could be that Ethiopia responds to the demands of Sudan and Egypt, and agrees to an initial agreement, or the final scenario, where Addis Ababa agrees to some of the demands and continues negotiating on other controversial issues which require additional time.

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