Satellite images show Ethiopian dam filling as talks fail

Special Satellite images show Ethiopian dam filling as talks fail
This satellite image taken Friday, June 26, 2020, shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. (AP)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Satellite images show Ethiopian dam filling as talks fail

Satellite images show Ethiopian dam filling as talks fail
  • Egypt accuses Addis Ababa of ‘provocation’ during negotiations

CAIRO: New satellite images of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam show the megaproject’s reservoir beginning to fill, Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

William Davison, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, told the US news agency that the photos taken by the Sentinel-1 satellite can likely be explained by natural rainfall rather than deliberate measures taken by Addis Ababa.

The images come a day after the end of the latest round of negotiations sponsored by the African Union between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. The talks lasted for 11 days without reaching agreement.

Negotiations involved water and irrigation ministers from the three countries, along with observers and delegates from the African Union.

Discussions between the technical and legal committees were reviewed, which reflected disagreements on the rules for filling and operating the dam.

“Egypt has been involved in the Renaissance Dam negotiations with a willingness to reach an agreement. It is showing flexibility until a fair and equitable agreement which meets the interests of the three negotiating countries is reached,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said.

“Unfortunately, there have been no developments in the negotiations to reach an agreement. Egypt will work with a clear vision to reach an agreement that guarantees development in the three countries. The UN Security Council is keeping up with the results of the negotiations. We have confidence in its mechanisms to maintain international peace and security,” he added.

The previous round of talks between the three countries — held from June 9 till June 17 — failed to produce an accord after Ethiopia refused to enter a legally binding agreement, announcing that it will begin filling the dam in July with or without the approval of Egypt and Sudan, the two downstream countries.

“The results of what is being negotiated about the filling of the dam will appear in the coming days,” said Mohamed El-Sebai, spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation.

“With an increase in the flood rate, we will be able to know the story behind the images. There are mechanisms to tell if Ethiopia started filling the dam lake by looking at the amount of water coming to Egypt,” he said.

“The water year in Egypt begins at the start of August. Then we can identify the extent of Ethiopia filling the reservoir of the dam,” El-Sebai added.

Alaa El-Zawahiri, a member of the negotiating committee for the dam, told Arab News there will be a meeting at the presidential level to discuss the dispute soon.

He claims that Ethiopia has a plan to take control of the waters of the Nile from Egypt.

“Ethiopia uses emotions and delusion to provoke feelings against Egypt during negotiations,” he said.

Egyptian water expert Abbas Sharaqi said there is a path to agreement if the parties show flexibility, provided that Ethiopia does not fill the dam or cancel talks.

He said that negotiations will continue through the Security Council, but if Ethiopia starts to fill the dam, Egypt will consider it an aggression and may forcefully stop the filling and the construction of the dam until a fair and just agreement is reached.

Mohamed Nasr Allam, former Egyptian minister of irrigation and water resources, questioned the intentions of the African Union.

He said he will try to end international intervention in the crisis and will work “in every way to prevent the Security Council from interfering.”

He added: “The African Union will also negotiate with and pressure Sudan and others to change positions in an attempt to isolate Egypt and impose its solutions on it, something that I fear will happen in the coming period.”