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.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Egypt-Ethiopia--A-new-chapter- - Al-Ahram Weekly

A joint statement issued last week is seen as a positive step in improving Egypt-Ethiopia relations. However, other steps must follow, reports Doaa El-Bey

Egypt-Ethiopia: A new chapter?

Shoukri with his Ethiopian counterpart
Egypt and Ethiopia agreed to boost their mutual relations last week when they issued a joint statement that underlined the basic principles governing their relation: Ethiopia will understand the importance of the Nile River to Egypt and Egypt will appreciate the Ethiopian need for development.

The statement presents an important change in the relation between the two countries, according to Hani Raslan, head of the Sudan and Nile Basin countries studies programme at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. However, it remains a step that should be followed by negotiations, which are not expected to be easy and need time and effort.

Helmi Shaarawi, former director of the Arab African Research Centre, views the statement as important and balanced. “But it focused on mutual interests and mutual benefit and refrained from mentioning the historic rights that Egypt adheres to and Addis Ababa refuses to acknowledge,” he said.

In the joint statement issued last week, Egypt and Ethiopia agreed to form a joint committee in the upcoming three months to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries and continue discussions on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The statement was read by Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri and his Ethiopian counterpart, Tedros Adhanom, last Friday.

The statement, which emphasised the two countries’ commitment to the principles of international law, mutual respect and dialogue, reflected the positive atmosphere in which it was issued.

Shoukri described the statement as a “new chapter” in relations between the two countries that provides new momentum for consultation and cooperation.

However the most important steps are the immediate resumption of the Tripartite Commission, the commitment of the Ethiopian government to avoid any potential damage that could result from the dam currently being built on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, and the commitment of the Egyptian government to constructive communication with Ethiopia.

Raslan regarded the greatest achievement of the statement that it put the crisis between the two states onto the track of negotiations.

Negotiations between the two states, he said, reached a deadlock after the failure of the last round of talk in January followed by a failed visit of the Egyptian minister of irrigation to Addis Ababa. After that, Egypt declared that there would not be any negotiation unless there is something new in the Ethiopian stand.

“Now, after the election of the president, Egypt can take the initiative and put the crisis back on the negotiations track,” he added.

The statement came after President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi met with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, in Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo at the African Union summit. That meeting, according to Shoukri, aimed to open a new chapter in relations between the two countries and was conducted in an atmosphere of openness, mutual understanding and cooperation.

Positive developments in Egypt-Ethiopia relations were given a further boost by Al-Sisi’s brief visit to Sudan on his way back from the AU summit.

The visit was very important, according to Shaarawi, because it indicated that Nile Basin problems would be resolved in a collective way. “Sudan has a direct responsibility towards resolving the dam issue and other issues related to the Nile Basin. It has recently adopted a change of stance on the issue of the dam and the Entebbe Agreement. Al-Sisi’s visit pointed to the importance of collective efforts and Egyptian-Sudanese cooperation in dealing with Nile Basin problems,” he said.

Al-Sisi’s visit to Khartoum aimed to strengthen bilateral relations with Sudan. After the meeting, the two countries’ presidents said at a joint press conference that the upcoming period would witness more cooperation between the two states in different fields.

Al-Sisi invited Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir to visit Egypt for more discussion on development plans between the two countries. Al-Bashir welcomed the invitation and expressed his willingness to visit Egypt soon.

Raslan said that the Al-Sisi visit could benefit Egypt-Sudan relations first by easing tensions after the clear support of the Sudanese regime for the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt. After that regime was gone, he said, Sudan tried to improve its relations with Egypt. Sudan’s minister of defence paid Egypt two visits in February, the foreign minister came to Egypt in March, and a high level delegation headed by Al-Bashir’s deputy attended Al-Sisi’s inauguration.

“Al-Sisi visit came to turn a new page in relations,” he added.

An improvement in mutual relations is likely to be reflected in Sudan’s stance on the Ethiopian dam. Given that Sudan is an important party in that issue, Raslan elaborated, its contribution is likely to have a positive effect on that issue.

The Ethiopian dam has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government since May 2013, when images of the dam’s construction stirred public anxiety about its possible effects on Egypt’s share of Nile water. Nearly 35 per cent of the dam has been built.

However, Ethiopian officials insisted the dam would not harm Egypt.

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan formed an independent tripartite technical committee to study the possible effects of the dam. The committee issued a report last year asking for more studies to be conducted on the dam to assess the possible effect on Sudan and Egypt.

The Nile is the main source of water for Egypt — meeting some 95 per cent of its water needs. Egypt takes 55 billion cubic metres annually from the Nile, as stipulated in agreements signed in 1929 and 1959. Egypt insists on its historic rights according to these agreements. Ethiopia said that these agreements were signed with colonial powers and called for replacing them.

In 2010, the upstream states of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania signed the Entebbe Agreement in the Ugandan capital, aiming to seek a greater share of Nile water. Burundi signed the agreement one year later.

Both Egypt and Sudan, for their part, rejected the agreement, fearing it would affect their historical share of Nile water. Later, South Sudan signed the agreement.

Tanzania has recently called for a review to the Entebbe Agreement, a step that was regarded as positive in resolving current differences on the Ethiopian dam.

Resuming the work of the tripartite technical committee and respecting international law — as stipulated in last week’s joint statement — could be the first step towards resolution of the dam issue.

In addition, issuing the joint statement could contribute towards “changing the strategic environment that surrounded the crisis and giving Egypt the chance to build a network at regional and international levels that could positively contribute towards resolving the GERD issue,” Raslan said.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Egypt invites Sudan and Ethiopia for tripartite talks in Cairo - Daily News Egypt

The invitations were issued during a visit by Egypt’s water minister to Sudan

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Egypt’s Water and Irrigation Minister Hossam El-Din Moghazy(R) discussed the Ethiopian dam and the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) while in Sudan, his first trip abroad since his appointment as minister. (Photo from Egypt's Water and Irrigation Ministry)

Egypt’s Water and Irrigation Minister Hossam El-Din Moghazy(R) discussed the Ethiopian dam and the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) while in Sudan, his first trip abroad since his appointment as minister.

(Photo from Egypt’s Water and Irrigation Ministry)
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.