Nile crisis must be resolved to avoid conflict: Think tank

A picture shows a part of the River Nile in the Egyptian Capital Cairo on March 7, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Nile crisis must be resolved to avoid conflict: Think tank

  • Talks on the issues have been deadlocked for months
  • Egypt depends on the Nile for about 90 percent of its needs for irrigation and drinking water

CAIRO: A water crisis brewing between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over a contentious Nile dam could escalate into a conflict with "severe humanitarian consequences", a think-tank said on Wednesday.
Egypt, which relies almost totally on the Nile for irrigation and drinking water, fears the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam being built on the Blue Nile could reduce its water supplies.
Talks on the issues have been deadlocked for months.
"The case for cooperation among Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in resolving the Nile water dispute is unambiguous," the International Crisis Group think-tank said.
"All stand to benefit. Dangers of failing to work together are just as stark.
"The parties could blunder into conflict, with severe humanitarian consequences," it warned.
The dam project launched by Ethiopia in 2012 is designed to feed a hydroelectric project to produce 6,000 megawatts of power, equal to six nuclear-powered plants.
Egypt depends on the Nile for about 90 percent of its needs for irrigation and drinking water, and says it has "historic rights" to the river guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959.
The river, which runs through 10 countries, is Africa's longest and a crucial artery for water supplies and electricity for all the countries.
The Blue Nile takes its source in Ethiopia and converges with the White Nile in Sudan's capital Khartoum to form the Nile which runs through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.
The ICG said it was "crucial that the parties resolve their dispute before the dam (whose construction is near completion) begins operating."
"The Nile basin countries could be drawn into conflict because the stakes are so high: Ethiopia sees the hydroelectric dam as a defining national development project; Sudan covets the cheap electricity and expanded agricultural production that it promises; and Egypt perceives the possible loss of water as an existential threat," it said.
The report recommends a two-step approach, beginning with confidence building measures "by agreeing upon terms for filling the dam's reservoirs that do not harm downstream countries" and "a new, transboundary framework for resource sharing to avert future conflicts".


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 39 min 24 sec ago
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.