‘Comprehensive agreement’ on Ethiopia’s controversial dam to be signed late February

‘Comprehensive agreement’ on Ethiopia’s controversial dam to be signed late February

By: Egypt Today staff

CAIRO –(egypttoday)– 14 February 2020: The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the World Bank, the brokers of the tripartite negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), announced that they will facilitate the preparation of the final agreement between the three countries on the disputed points concerning the filling and operation of the dam to be signed by the end of February 2020.

Following the final round of the meetings between the countries and the US and the WB representatives in Washington D.C.on February 12-13, 2020, the participants issued a communique saying that the negotiations achieved a concrete development.

“The Ministers reviewed the progress achieved by their technical and legal teams and continued their discussions on the remaining issues necessary for a final agreement. The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of trans-boundary cooperation in the development of the Blue Nile to improve the lives of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and their shared commitment to concluding an agreement,” the statement by the U.S. Department of Treasury said.

Egypt expressed its deep appreciation to the US Treasury’s role and US President Donald Trump’s efforts and the WB role in reaching this “comprehensive agreement that realizes the interests of the three countries and lays the foundations for cooperation and integration between them, thus benefiting the entire region,” said Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Hafez in a statement on Friday morning.

The agreement “includes the dam’s stage-based filling plan, and specific procedures to deal with droughts, prolonged droughts, and dry years that may coincide with the filling process, in addition to the long-term operationalization rules, including the GERD operationalization under normal hydrological conditions, as well as procedures for dealing with droughts, prolonged droughts, and dry years,” Hafez said.

“Negotiations also tackled the coordination mechanism between the three countries, which will undertake the follow-up to the implementation of the agreement on the GERD filling and operationalization, and clauses determining the technical data and information to be circulated in order to verify the implementation of the agreement, as well as provisions related to the dam’s safety and dealing with emergency situations, as well as a binding mechanism to resolve any disputes that may arise regarding the interpretation or implementation of this agreement,” he added.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry traveled to the U.S. on Monday to participate in talks with the foreign and irrigation ministers of Ethiopia and Sudan over GERD in a final bid to resolve months of stalemates between Cairo and Addis Ababa over the operation of the mega-dam.

The meetings came under an agreement by the parties to reconvene in Washington this month.

The spokesperson for Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed al-Sebaie has said this round firmly focused on reaching solutions that satisfy the three parties, indicating that it was agreed to set a timetable for filling the dam, especially the procedures followed in the drought years.

The spokesman added that the final agreement included rules on filling the dam as well as dealing with droughts, the main part that secures Egypt and a safe operating of the dam to preserve the rights of the downstream countries.

He affirmed that the agreement also included other elements, such as conflict resolution, through the presence of a mechanism to deal firmly with issues binding all parties, and also by setting up a mitigation mechanism for the annual and long-term operation of the dam during droughts.

He finally pointed out that Egypt depends on around 98 percent of the Nile’s water, and any slight defect will negatively affect the country, stressing that the dam should be managed jointly so that Egypt can guarantee its share of the water.

On Friday, during the 36th session of the Executive Council of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Shoukry discussed with his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor the latest development of tripartite consultation on the GERD.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister reviewed the current situation and Egypt’s positive engagement and its good faith in the negotiation to reach a fair agreement on filling and operating the dam, so that it would achieve Ethiopia’s development goals without causing harm to Egypt’s water interests, said Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahemd Hafez in a statement last week.

The difference between the three Nile basin countries dates back to May 2011 when Ethiopia started building the dam; Egypt voiced concern over its water share [55.5 billion cubic meters]. Three years later, a series of tripartite talks between the two countries along with Sudan began to reach an agreement while Ethiopia continued the dam construction.

In 2015, the three countries signed the Declaration of Principles, per which the downstream countries [Egypt and Sudan] should not be negatively affected by the construction of the dam. Since then, the talks have been resumed, but In October 2019 blamed Addis Ababa for hindering a final agreement concerning a technical problem, calling for activating the Article No. 10 of the Declaration of Principles, which stipulates that if the three countries could not find a solution to these differences, they have to ask for mediation.