Second round talks over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile dam begin in Khartoum

8 Dec

by Ahmed Eleiba, Ahram Online
Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory

The second round of tripartite negotiations concerning the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia began on Sunday in Khartoum.

Representatives from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia met in the Sudanese capital to continue discussing the potential impacts that Ethiopia’s controversial dam will have upon the three countries’ access to the Nile’s water.

Egypt has voiced concerns that the upstream project, slated to be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, will compromise its supply of water. It has since demanded that Ethiopia submit construction plans for assessment by international experts.

Ethiopia has since rejected Egypt’s request, insisting rather on the formation of the tripartite committee and a panel of experts from the three countries.

Sunday’s negotiations come after a 5 December meeting between Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, in which the Sudanese President announced his support for the dam’s construction. The pair signed 14 new agreements dealing with security, a free trade zone, investment and electricity.

Among the latest additions to the negotiations is the new Sudanese Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Moataz Moussa, part of a general reshuffling of the Sudanese cabinet on Sunday which saw the appointment of a new vice president.

Moussa is experienced in such issues, having taken part in several technical panels before, said Nafie Ali Nafie, assistant to President Al-Bashir.

At the conference, Moussa stressed the importance of direct dialogue between Nile Basin countries to solve issues of sustainable development.

Egypt’s delegate to the negotiations, Ahmed Bahaa Eddin, head of the Egypt’s Nile Water Authority, said that he hoped the talks would allow development to proceed without causing or reciprocating harm. He also stressed that the Egyptian delegation was attending with open hearts, under the premise that the discussions would pave the way towards future mutual cooperation.

In June, Ethiopia’s parliament ratified a treaty allowing upstream countries to implement irrigation and hydropower projects without first seeking Egypt’s approval. The deal replaces a colonial-era agreement formerly granting Egypt and Sudan the majority of water rights.

Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese water ministers met for the first round of talks on 4 November in Khartoum.

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