Nile dam negotiations reach deadlock

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Updated 19 June 2020

Nile dam negotiations reach deadlock

  • $4.8bn megaproject on the Blue Nile is predicted to generate 6,000 megawatts when completed

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Aty on Thursday blamed Ethiopia for the lack of progress in the latest round of negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). 

Ethiopia hopes the $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile, which is predicted to generate 6,000 megawatts when completed, will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter. Both Sudan and Egypt have major concerns about the potential negative effects the dam could have on their own areas of the Nile. 

Speaking after a meeting of the water ministers of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, Abdel-Aty said that Ethiopia had rejected a proposal that the three countries should reach a binding agreement in accordance with international law. He said Ethiopia’s position was to agree on guidelines only, which could later be unilaterally amended by Addis Ababa. Negotiations over GERD first began almost 10 years ago. 

“Ethiopia sought to reach an absolute right to establish projects in the Upper Blue Nile,” Abdel-Aty said. “Moreover, it refused (to agree) that the GERD agreement (should include) a legally binding mechanism to settle disputes. Ethiopia also rejected (a proposal) that the agreement (should) include efficient measures to respond to droughts.” 

Abdel-Aty added, ”Egypt participated in the recent round of negotiations, called for by the brotherly nation of Sudan, with good intentions, in order to exhaust and explore all the available methods to reach a fair and balanced agreement on GERD in a way that would preserve Ethiopia’s developmental rights out of this project while minimizing the negative effects and damages caused by GERD on the two downstream countries. However, Ethiopia unfortunately continued its intransigent stances.” 

Ethiopia’s intransigence on GERD negotiations has also raised concerns in Sudan. The Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation issued a statement saying, “Despite the progress achieved in technical issues pertaining to filling and operating the dam, disputes pertaining to the legal aspects revealed real conceptual differences among the three parties on a number of issues, (including) how binding the agreement is, a dispute settlement mechanism, and disconnecting the agreement from any other agreements since the current accord is supposedly on filling and operating the dam, not on dividing the water shares among the three countries. 

“In light of such developments, the Sudanese delegation requested referring the disputed files to the prime ministers of the three countries to reach a political consensus on such files in a way that would provide the political will needed to resume negotiations as soon as possible following consultations between the ministers of irrigation of the three countries,” the statement continued. 

In a seminar held by Sudanese Minister of Irrigation Yasser Abbas, Siddiq Youssef — a leader of the Alliance for Freedom and Change (ALC) and of the Sudanese Communist Party — called on the Sudanese government to ensure that a compensation clause for any ecological or social damage resulting from the GERD project is included in any agreement. 

The former Egyptian Minister of Irrigation Mohamed Nasr Allam told the press that the failure of GERD negotiations indicates that Ethiopia has reached “a high level of bullying” and said it was important that Egypt and Sudan be privy to records of the transcripts of the sessions.  

Allam added that Cairo and Khartoum should coordinate their approach to the negotiations. He called for both parties to resort to the UN Security Council and to use other ways to “internationalize” the issue. 

Ethiopia, he said, does not have a real political will to make a success of the negotiations. “It was targeting the international community and trying to prove to observers that it was serious in negotiations. However, even this objective was not achieved,” Allam said.  

Sudanese political analyst Mohamed Adam Isaaq said that any attempt to remove Sudan’s lawful right of partnership in the GERD project would be unacceptable. Sudan is a “main player, not a mediator,” he said, pointing out that the country could be exposed to negative effects — as well as benefits — from the project, including the decline of the water level in the Nile, and a decline of silt, which would deprive Sudan of natural agriculture on the river’s banks. Fishery resources would also be depleted, he claimed. 

Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the River Nile for fresh water, fears the dam will diminish its water supply, which is already worryingly low. Some 85 percent of the Nile water that reaches Egypt flows from the Ethiopian highlands.


Coronavirus cases soar as Israel prepares tighter measures

Updated 1 min 56 sec ago

Coronavirus cases soar as Israel prepares tighter measures

  • Israel, a country of some 9 million people, now has one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus on a per capita basis
  • The government reopened the economy too quickly, and a new outbreak has quickly spread throughout the summer

JERUSALEM: Israel on Wednesday reported a new record level of daily cases of the coronavirus, shortly before government officials were to meet to discuss tightening a new nationwide lockdown.
The Health Ministry reported 6,861 new cases on Wednesday as a raging outbreak showed no signs of slowing. Israel, a country of some 9 million people, now has one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus on a per capita basis, and health officials say hospitals are quickly approaching capacity.
The government last week imposed a nationwide lockdown that closed schools, shopping malls, hotels and restaurants. The coronavirus Cabinet was to meet later in the day to discuss further tightening the restrictions.
Ahead of the meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that in light of the rapid spread of the virus, he would seek a “a broad general closure and significant tightening of restrictions immediately,” including the closure of large parts of the economy, his office said.
Israel won international praise for its handling of the outbreak last spring, moving quickly to seal its borders and impose a lockdown that appeared to contain the virus. But the government reopened the economy too quickly, and a new outbreak has quickly spread throughout the summer. The economy, meanwhile, has not recovered from a serious downturn caused by the first lockdown, and the new lockdown has led to a new wave of layoffs.
A new poll released Wednesday by the Israel Democracy Institute, a respected think tank, found that only 27% of Israelis trust Netanyahu to lead the country’s effort against COVID-19. That compares with 57.5% who trusted him in early April. The survey interviewed 754 adults and had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.
The Health Ministry has instructed hospitals to delay non-essential surgeries and to open additional coronavirus wards as the number of serious cases continues to rise.
Beyond further limiting economic activity, officials have been discussing shuttering synagogues and clamping down on protests — both of which risk sparking a public backlash.
The limits would come at a time when Israeli Jews are celebrating the High Holidays and when weekly demonstrations have been held against Netanyahu and his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The ongoing protests have bitterly divided the country, with religious leaders saying their public is being unfairly targeted by restrictions on public prayer while Netanyahu’s opponents continue to hold large public demonstration. Demonstrators say Netanyahu’s supporters are using the outbreak as an excuse to muzzle their democratic right to protest.
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said restrictions would have to be tightened in the near future.
“Educational institutions will be closed, the economy will be limited to essential work, synagogues will have no indoor prayers, with arrangements for outdoor prayer, and demonstrations will be allowed without protesters traveling between cities,” he told Channel 12 TV. “Everyone will demonstrate where he wants, will pray where he wants and will stay at home. That is what is required now.”