Potential solutions to Egypt-Ethiopia dam dispute remain murky

13 Jan


Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in his meetings with the ministers of irrigation and defense and head of General Intelligence (Photo:Egyptian presidency, Ahram Jan 11, 2016)

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Participants kicked up plenty of dust at the most recent round of negotiations concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, but once again departed with only an agreement to keep trying to reach an agreement.

The negotiations among officials of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan were marked by direct confrontations and escalating tension. Potential solutions are murky, at best, and the process remains stagnant.

On Dec. 27, the negotiating parties found themselves forced to announce that they had signed a document calling for “continued” cooperation and trust-building in an attempt to contain mounting public pressure in Egypt and Ethiopia. Yet the parties failed to find a solution that preserves the Nile water interests of Cairo and Addis Ababa.

The negotiations resumed in Khartoum just two weeks after the first round held in the first week of December. However, Egypt remained skeptical, especially after Ethiopia announced Dec. 26 — just hours before the start of negotiations — that it was diverting the Nile’s course to run through the dam for the first time. This step confirmed Addis Ababa’s refusal to delay construction on the dam until the end of the negotiations.

The filling of the dam’s reservoir and its operating mechanisms topped the negotiations’ agenda, but Egypt and Ethiopia’s divergent visions and intransigent positions hindered any potential agreement.

The Egyptian delegation rejected Ethiopia’s request to store at least 3 billion cubic meters (2.4 million acre feet) of water in the dam to carry out construction safety tests.

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