Talks over disputed Nile dam to continue in ‘separate meetings’

Mohammed El-Said
4 Min Read

Negotiations over the disputed Nile dam between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, continued online, on Saturday. The parties have reached no agreement on the disputed points, as several technical and legal issues remain unsolved.

Each country reviewed its viewpoints on the issues under discussion, with an agreement to resume talks on Sunday in “separate meetings” between observers and each of the three countries, Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation said in a statement following the Saturday’s meeting.

Egypt has resumed talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the hopes that the other parties involved share their good faith in the process.

The statement was made by Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation spokesperson, Mohamed Sebaey, on Saturday.

Sebaey told Daily News Egypt that the ongoing talks on the under-construction Nile dam could last for the entire week, as the parties are hoping to achieve progress.

Nile dam negotiations resumed on Friday under supervision from the African Union (AU), which is currently headed by Presidency holder, South Africa.

The AU’s Assembly Bureau and representatives from AU member states, the US, and the EU participated in the meeting.

“The GERD trilateral negotiation resumed yesterday [Friday] in the afternoon [and] continues today [Saturday]. It is ongoing with additional observers from AU [and] its Bureau members as designated by President Ramaphosa of South Africa, the current AU President. The negotiation will continue everyday for up to two weeks,” Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Seleshi Bekele, wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Egypt has voiced its concerns regarding the GERD project’s safety, as Cairo has not obtained the engineering documents, reports and drawings related to this subject, according to Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohammed Abdel Aaty.

The River Nile is considered Egypt’s lifeline, with the river providing the most populous country in the Nile River Basin with about 97% of its current water needs.

Despite the Ethiopian side pushing the colonialism debate, Egypt’s historic rights to River Nile waters is based on an agreement signed in 1902 between Great Britain and an independent Ethiopia under Emperor Menilik II.

In the agreement, Ethiopia vowed not to construct, or allow to construction on, any work across the Blue Nile, Lake Tsana, or the Sobat which would arrest the flow of their waters into the Nile. This could only happen should Egypt and Sudan also agree.

Egypt also relies on a 1993 agreement, entitled “Framework for general cooperation between Egypt and Ethiopia”. This agreement stresses the necessity of addressing the use of River Nile waters in detail by experts from both countries on the basis of international law.

Ethiopia has ignored both the 1902 and the 1993 agreements, as well as the 2015 Declaration of Principles. Instead, it only talks about the 1929 agreement between Egypt and Great Britain. Addis Ababa argues that these agreements are “invalid” and “unfair”, as they allow Egypt to get the lion’s share of River Nile water.

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Mohammed El-Said is the Science Editor for the Daily News Egypt with over 8 years of experience as a journalist. His work appeared in the Science Magazine, Nature Middle East, Scientific American Arabic Edition, SciDev and other regional and international media outlets. El-Said graduated with a bachelor's degree and MSc in Human Geography, and he is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at Cairo University. He also had a diploma in media translation from the American University in Cairo.