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Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan meet over Renaissance Dam

December 28 - 2015 KHARTOUM
El Sisi (L), Al Bashir (C) and Desalegn after signing the Renaissance Dam agreement in Khartoum on 23 March 2015 ((Ashraf Shazly/AFP)
El Sisi (L), Al Bashir (C) and Desalegn after signing the Renaissance Dam agreement in Khartoum on 23 March 2015 ((Ashraf Shazly/AFP)

The Ethiopian, Egyptian, and Sudanese Foreign Affairs and Water Resources Ministers will meet today in Khartoum over the Grand Renaissance Dam.

The second round of talks this month on the Ethiopian power project aims at ironing out differences on the dam project particularly as it relates to technical aspects and impact on the downstream countries, Sudan Tribune reported on Sunday.

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour told the press that the preparatory meeting earlier this month discussed the status of the consultancy firms assigned to probe the effects of the dam on Sudan and Egypt.

The FM said the talks were also meant to put in effect the declaration of principles signed by the leaders of the three countries in Khartoum last March. Though the declaration tacitly approves the dam construction, it calls for technical studies aimed at safeguarding the water quotas of the three riparian states.

In September last year, a panel of experts proposed to conduct two additional studies on the dam. One should study the effect of the project on Sudan and Egypt’s water quota, and the second one the dam’s ecological, economic and social impacts on the two countries.

“We have agreed upon all the issues we discussed. The remaining items will be discussed later on. I can confirm however that we are going in the right path,” Ghandour said.

Al Bashir offers advice

On Sunday, President Omar Al Bashir discussed the dam project with the Ethiopian and Egyptian Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

Ethiopia’s FA Minister Tedros Adhanom told reporters in Khartoum that Al Bashir had presented “some advices and proposals” to reach a compromise.

Adhanom said he informed Bashir about the progress of the talks “given the fact that this is the second round of talks this month”. He hailed Sudan’s role in pushing the talks forward.

The Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Samih Shukri, confirmed to Al Bashir “the vitality of the declaration of principles as a basis for confidence building and for achieving common benefits for Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia without any harm to any of them”.

Egypt is concerned that the dam could reduce its quota of 55.5 billion cubic meters of the Nile water, while the Ethiopian side maintains that the dam is primarily built to produce electricity and will not harm Sudan and Egypt.

Framework agreement

On 23 March, Al Bashir, the Egyptian President Abdelfattah El Sisi, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn signed a framework accord on the Renaissance Dam in Khartoum.

The three countries agreed on Sudan’s and Egypt’s shares of electricity generated by the dam, expected to reach 6,000 megawatts, a mechanism for resolving conflicts, and compensation in case of damages. The three signatories will be bound to the recommendations of the firms that will assess the impact of the dam on the water provision in Sudan and Egypt.

In 2013, Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile to build the 6,000 MW dam, which will be Africa’s largest when completed in 2017. The costs of the construction of the 1,780-metre-long and 145-metre high dam have been estimated at $4.2 billion.

From the start, Cairo strongly protested Ethiopia’s intention to replace a 1929 British treaty that granted Egypt the biggest share of the Nile water, as well as veto power over any project involving the river by upstream countries. Some Egyptian officials even proposed military action, as they fear that the Renaissance Dam will further increase its water shortages.

The Nile, with 6,700 kilometres the world’s longest river, flows through Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. Of the four major tributaries to the Nile, three originate from Ethiopia: the Blue Nile, Sobat, and Atbara rivers.

In 1999, the Ministers of Water Resources of Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, established the Nile Basin Initiative, to prevent escalation of simmering conflicts over the use of the river’s water. Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda are backing the Ethiopian dam project.

(Sudan Tribune, Sudan Vision Daily, Radio Dabanga)

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