Egypt Independent

Deadlock in Renaissance Dam talks, Egypt to discuss alternative scenarios

Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Ati, who is heading Egypt’s delegation in the tripartite talks on the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, said he will submit a comprehensive report on the results of the commission’s latest meeting to the Higher Committee on Nile Water.

The technical tripartite commission, made up of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, concluded its 17th meeting on Sunday after two days of work in Cairo, without reportedly making any progress.

Informed sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the report would include proposals to continue supporting the negotiation efforts or other scenarios on how to deal with technical issues, after outstanding differences between the parties over a French technical report on the impact of the dam failed to be resolved.

The results of the tripartite meeting, held in Cairo in the presence of water ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, revealed the existence of a crisis in the negotiation process. The settlement of outstanding issues have been delayed since the French companies BRL and Artelia, which have conducted studies on the dam, presented their preliminary report in March.

Egyptian experts said that Cairo is committed to all forms of direct negotiations, while Ethiopia continues to build the dam without complying with the rules, regulations or principles established by the African Union, which stipulates the adherence to all international agreements signed when Ethiopia and Egypt were under foreign occupation.

These rules and regulation include agreements from 1903 and 1929 signed between Britain and Italy.

The experts said that all options are on the table for the Egyptian state to deal with what they described as “the apparent obstinacy of the Addis Ababa government.”

They noted that Ethiopia insists on not complying with official commitments, either by not implementing the provisions of the Declaration of Principles or the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries in 1993, or not complying with international laws governing trans-boundary rivers.

As such, Egypt has the right to take all preventive measures to preserve its water security and historical right to the Nile by employing international law, which “Ethiopia has not been abiding to”.

President of the Arab Water Council, former Minister of Irrigation, Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, said that the main reason for the dispute, as stated in the French report, relates to the share of water each party is entitled to.

He explained that Egypt’s share of Nile water sits at 55.5 billion cubic meters, while Sudan’s quota is 18.5 billion cubic meters. This is in accordance with an agreement signed between the two downstream countries in 1959; an agreement Ethiopia does not recognize.

Abu-Zeid stressed the need to ensure that technical negotiations continue by holding a meeting at the level of heads of states or foreign ministers to discuss how to resolve the deadlock.

He pointed out that there are serious difficulties in the ongoing negotiations, particularly as they concern the Ethiopian head negotiator who is allegedly always intransigent, despite Egypt’s confidence building efforts.

On his part, Hani Raslan, director of Nile water studies at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, demanded that the Egyptian government submit a complaint to the UN Security Council, as the behavior of Sudan and Ethiopia poses a threat to international peace and security because of the centrality of the Nile for Egypt and its people.

Raslan told al-Masry al-Youm that he did not agree with the claim that the Minister of Irrigation is responsible for the mismanagement of the negotiations over the Ethiopia dam. He explained that the Ethiopian strategy only used the meetings as a cover to waste time and to display itself to the international community as a cooperating partner.

He added that this strategy was aimed at enticing Egypt to proceed in negotiations for as long as possible so that Ethiopia can complete the construction of the dam and turn it into a reality on the ground. It can then proceed without paying attention to potential Egyptian protestations.

Raslan said that the tripartite meetings have shown that the Ethiopian side is “elusive” and that it has mostly focused on technical obstacles which ultimately has been aimed at exhausting time in order to serve its own interests, without taking into consideration Egypt and Sudan.

In 2011, Ethiopia started construction on the Renaissance Dam over the Blue Nile River, one of the major sources of the water that later forms the River Nile downstream.

The dam is expected to be completed this year.

Edited translation from al-Masry al-Youm