Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia fail to reach agreement on Nile dam

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Egyptian Water Resources Minister Mohamed Abdel Aati (2nd R) participates with a delegation in the "Renaissance Dam" trilateral negotiations in Khartoum on October 4, 2019. (AFP)
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Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity Seleshi Bekele (L) participates along with a delegation in a meeting with his Egyptian and Sudanese counterparts (unseen) in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on October 4, 2019, as part of the "Renaissance Dam" trilateral negotiations. (AFP)
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Egyptian Water Resources Minister Mohamed Abdel Aati (2nd R) participates with a delegation in the "Renaissance Dam" trilateral negotiations with his Sudanese and Ethiopian counterparts (unseen) in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on October 4, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 05 October 2019

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia fail to reach agreement on Nile dam

  • Sudan Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas told reporters in Khartoum that progress was made but differences on filling the giant reservoir and operating rules of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam remain unsettled
  • Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry, meanwhile, said that talks have stalemated

CAIRO: Irrigation ministers from three key Nile Basin countries wrapped up a two-day meeting Saturday in Sudan’s capital without resolving differences over Ethiopia’s soon-to-be-finished Blue Nile dam, with Egypt calling for international mediation to help reach a “fair and balanced” agreement.
Sudan Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas told reporters in Khartoum that progress was made but differences on filling the giant reservoir and operating rules of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam remain unsettled.
He said Ethiopia proposed a plan to fill the reservoir over four to seven years, without elaborating. He added that the three countries would continue consultations without giving a time frame.
Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry, meanwhile, said in a statement after the meeting that talks have stalemated, claiming Ethiopia rejected “all proposals that ... avoid causing substantial damage to Egypt.”
“Ethiopia ... offered a new proposal that contradicts previously agreed principles governing the filling and operating process,” said Muhammed el-Sebai, spokesman of the ministry.
He said Egypt has called for international mediation “to help reach a fair and balanced agreement that protect the three countries’ rights.”
Ethiopia did not immediately respond.
Egyptian presidency spokesman Bassam Radi said Egypt was looking forward to an “instrumental role” by the US in the talks. He said because there was no breakthrough in negotiations, there was a need for an “international instrumental role to overcome the current deadlock.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Thursday the US supports Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan’s negotiations to reach a sustainable and mutually beneficial agreement.
“All Nile Valley countries have a right to economic development and prosperity,” Grisham said. “The administration calls on all sides to put forth good faith efforts to reach an agreement that preserves those rights, while simultaneously respecting each other’s Nile water equities.”
Egypt fears the dam could reduce its share of the Nile River, which serves as a lifeline for the country’s 100 million people. Ethiopia has roughly the same population and says the dam will help its economic development.


US to pull last troops from north Syria

Updated 14 October 2019

US to pull last troops from north Syria

  • The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria
  • Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of US’s Kurdish-led ally the Syrian Democratic Forces

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The United States said on Sunday it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria in the face of an expanding Turkish offensive while Syria’s army struck a deal with Kurdish forces to redeploy along its border with Turkey, both major victories for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria and the failure of the US policy of keeping Assad from reasserting state authority over areas lost during the more than eight-year conflict with rebels trying to end his rule.
The developments also represent wins for Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad since 2011 when his violent effort to crush what began as peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule of Syria exploded into a full-blown civil war.
While the US withdrawal moves American troops out of the line of fire, the return of Syrian soldiers to the Turkish border opens up the possibility of a wider conflagration should the Syrian army come in direct conflict with Turkish forces.
The Turkish onslaught in northern Syria has also raised the prospect that Daesh militants and their families held by the Kurdish forces targeted by Turkey may escape — scores were said to have done so already — and permit the group’s revival.
The remarkable turn of events was set in motion a week ago when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw about 50 special operations forces from two outposts in northern Syria, a step widely seen as paving the way for Turkey to launch its week-long incursion against Kurdish militia in the region.
Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been a key US ally in dismantling the “caliphate” set up by Daesh militants in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said the offensive would extend from Kobani in the west to Hasaka in the east and extend some 30 kilometers into Syrian territory, with the town of Ras al Ain now in Turkish control.
US Defense Secretary Mike Esper said the United States decided to withdraw its roughly 1,000 troops in northern Syria — two US officials told Reuters it could pull the bulk out in days — after learning of the deepening Turkish offensive.
It was unclear what would happen to the several hundred US troops at the American military outpost of Tanf, near Syria’s southern border with Iraq and Jordan.
Another factor behind the decision, Esper indicated in an interview with the CBS program “Face the Nation,” was that the SDF aimed to make a deal with Russia and Syria to counter the Turkish onslaught. Several hours later, the Kurdish-led administration said it had struck just such an agreement for the Syrian army to deploy along the length of the border with Turkey to help repel Ankara’s offensive.
The deployment would help the SDF in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered,” it added, referring to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, and would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin.
The fighting has sparked Western concerns that the SDF, holding large swathes of northern Syria once controlled by Daesh, would be unable to keep thousands of militants in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps.