Sunday, July 20, 2014
Egypt asks resumption of tripartite talks over Nile dam - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan
Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt will resume tripartite negotiations over the construction of Ethiopia’s controversial hydro power plant project known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The Ethiopian foreign ministry said Cairo has this week officially asked the resumption of the tripartite talks which had been suspended in January after they failed to reach an agreement over key points of contention.
Egypt argues the Power plant project, which Ethiopia is building along the Nile River near the Sudanese border, would eventually diminish its water share.
Cairo further says the project, which is the largest along the Nile river would reduce the amount of electricity generated by the Aswan Dam as well as would affect its agricultural production.
Cairo officially asked the resumption of the talks after Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and newly elected Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi hold meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on the sidelines of the African Union summit.
Government sources said the new round of talks between the three countries would resume on the basis of the seven point agreed between Desalegn and Al-Sisi.
“One of the areas to be discussed will be the resumption of the activities of the tripartite technical committee tasked with the implementation of the recommendation of the International Panel of Experts (IPoE)” said ministry of foreign affairs.
Fekahmed Negash, Director of Boundary & Trans-boundary River Affairs stated that the committee will “pick up where it left off to discuss the formation of a committee for conducting two proposed studies.”
He said the "committee will comprise members drawn from all the three countries who will select contractors to conduct the two studies."
The joint technical committee will be tasked to in further studying possible impacts on the implementation of recommendations made by the panel.
The study involves a hydrology simulation model and a trans-boundary social, economic and environmental Impact assessment.
The International panel of experts in their final report said Ethiopia’s dam project would not result in any significant harm to the two downstream countries, Sudan and Egypt.
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The invitations were issued during a visit by Egypt’s water minister to Sudan
Egypt’s Water and Irrigation Minister Hossam El-Din Moghazy discussed the Ethiopian dam and the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) while in Sudan, his first trip abroad since his appointment as minister.
Moghazy led a delegation to the neighbouring country where he held talks with Sudanese Minister of Water Resources and Electricity Mutaz Musa. While discussing the NBI, Moghazy expressed Egypt’s aspiration in Sudan playing a role in bringing the views of Nile Basin countries closer since Musa is the current chairperson of the Nile Council of Ministers, a statement by Egypt’s Water Ministry said. Musa asserted that he has intentions of making efforts with Nile Basin countries in this regard.
Egypt and Sudan had frozen their activities in the NBI in 2010 in protest over the signing of the Cooperative Framework Agreement by five Nile Basin countries. The agreement has had Nile Basin countries split because it aims to re-divide shares of the Nile. Egypt has refused to sign the agreement and said it was “against the interests of Egypt and Sudan.”
Sudan eventually resumed activities in the NBI last year. In conclusion of a Nile Council of Ministers meeting last month, Musa read out a statement, in which the council called on Egypt tounfreeze its activities in the NBI.
Downstream countries Egypt and Sudan together receive the majority of Nile Water. As per agreements signed in 1929 and 1959, Egypt annually receives 55.5bn cubic metres of the estimated total 84bn cubic metres of Nile water produced each year and Sudan receives 18.5bn cubic metres.
Moghazy invited Musa for tripartite talks in Cairo between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia; an invitation was handed to the Ethiopian side at the same time. The talks will be on “preparations in order to move forward in regards to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).” Tripartite talks were held between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia in November, December and January, but no agreement was reached.
The invitations come days after Egypt and Ethiopia announced in a joint statement an agreement to form a joint committee within three months to streamline discussions on GERD. The two countries, outlined seven steps for the continuing construction of the dam. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the agreements provides “consensus in all aspects of relations between the two sides, bilateral and regional [and] in the fields of political, economic, social development.”
Bilateral talks between Egypt and Ethiopia in February had ended after failing to resolve the sticking points of the debate between the two countries.
GERD, which is currently being built on the Blue Nile, a major tributary to the Nile, has been a point of contention between Egypt and Ethiopia since Egypt fears that the dam will have a detrimental effect on its share of Nile water. The 1929 and 1959 agreements which guarantee Egypt the lion’s share of Nile water were signed in the absence of Ethiopia.