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Virtual talks on Ethiopia disputed dam resume amid consensus hopes - Daily News Egypt

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Virtual talks on Ethiopia disputed dam resume amid consensus hopes

Egypt raises concerns regarding Ethiopia dam’s safety, says Egyptian Irrigation Minister

Egypt has resumed talks on Ethiopia Nile dam, 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 Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) could last for the entire week, as the parties are hoping to achieve progress.

GERD 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.

“I have no proof that any measures were taken, related to the dam’s safety,” he added in a phone call to the private TV channel, MBC Masr, on Friday evening. 

Abdel Aaty mentioned that Egypt views the Aswan High Dam’s reservoir as capable of supporting the filling of the GERD. 

Sebaey explained the minister’s comments saying that Egypt will use its water reserves in Lake Nasser to compensate its water needs during the period needed for the GERD reservoir’s filling. 

The minister further mentioned that 11 observers and representatives from the EU, the US and Africa participated in the latest round of GERD talks on Friday and Saturday.

Abdel Aaty pointed out that Egypt has not reached consensus with Ethiopia and Sudan on dealing with drought seasons during the GERD’s filling, and several technical and legal points remain disputed.

He explained that Addis Ababa insists on maintaining its position, claiming that it has offered several concessions during the negotiations. Abdel Aaty denies Ethiopia’s stance on the matter. 

On Friday, water resources minsters from the three countries involved in the negotiations, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, held a virtual meeting online to address the project’s filling and operation.

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.

“Each party shall refrain from engaging in any activity related to the Nile waters that may cause appreciable harm to the interest of the other side,” Article 5 of the 1993 agreement says.    

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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