Sudan calls for ‘decisive talks’ on Ethiopia dam

This handout satellite image obtained courtesy of Maxar Technologies on July 21, 2020 shows a view of northwestern Ethiopia that focuses on the status of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the Blue Nile River on July 11, 2020. (Handout/Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies/AFP)
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Updated 26 July 2020

Sudan calls for ‘decisive talks’ on Ethiopia dam

  • The AU confirmed it is preparing for a new round of talks on the dam
  • The Khartoum State Water Authority announced a sudden rise in the level of the Nile, which led to a decrease in the production of clean water, especially in marine water purification stations

CAIRO: Sudan wants a decisive round of negotiations on the Renaissance Dam with Egypt and Ethiopia, provided the latter adheres to a timetable and agenda to address disagreements, Sudanese Minister of Water and Irrigation Yasser Abbas said on Sunday.

The minister added that Addis Ababa must also negotiate without raising issues beyond the scope of the dam and future projects.

Abbas said an African Union (AU) statement on the Renaissance Dam meetings is in line with Sudan’s proposals on the need to reach a fair and binding agreement on filling and operating the dam and other future projects.

The AU confirmed it is preparing for a new round of talks on the dam. It has invited Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to work on reaching an agreement.

Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 95 percent of its fresh water, fears the dam will significantly reduce the river’s flow, especially during its filling through periods of drought or in dry years. Ethiopia has said the project is key to its energy development.

Sudan, as a downstream country, also fears the dam will affect its water supply.

Ahmed Hafez, spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the AU summit on the dam last Tuesday highlighted the need to reach an agreement that will include a mechanism to settle disputes.

The Khartoum State Water Authority announced a sudden rise in the level of the Nile, which led to a decrease in the production of clean water, especially in marine water purification stations. It suggests that work is underway to raise water platforms in the stations.

Anwar Al-Sadat Al-Haj Muhammad, the authority’s director-general, said turbidity in the water increased from 3,000 to 14,000 units, reducing the production of clean water in all stations in the state. The North Khartoum and East Khartoum neighborhoods were most affected.

“The historic achievement of the first stage of filling the Renaissance Dam is a testament to the end of the unfair use of the Nile,” the Ethiopian News Agency reported Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia Demeke Mekonnen as saying.

In a speech to a meeting to coordinate public participation in construction of the dam, Mekonnen said the completion of the first stage of filling the dam puts an end to the unfair use of the Nile, which has “continued for a long time.” He referred to the 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan that, 60 years after its application, “resulted in Ethiopia suffering.”

During the presentation of the report, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Seleshi Bekele said Ethiopia uses less than 10 percent of the 15,000 gigawatt hours the dam is capable of producing from Nile water.

He added that electricity generation from water will be ready in February and April 2021, through two turbines. A further 11 new turbines will be also be installed.

Gamal Hilal, former adviser to the White House, told the Egyptian press that the US has not abandoned mediation in the dam dispute, with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin playing a mediating role.

Hilal said Mnuchin’s biggest concern other than the coronavirus pandemic is the process to steady the US economy on behalf of US President Donald Trump and Congress.

“These matters are Mnuchin’s responsibility,” Hilal said.

“All his efforts are focused on saving the economy and negotiating to approve new deals. It is difficult for anyone to imagine that Mnuchin will leave his president and economy, and focus on the Renaissance Dam.”

Hilal said the US position will be neutral, but if Egyptian diplomacy succeeds in making the US ministry of foreign affairs and the treasury make statements in favor of Egypt, then it will be a good step, even if Mnuchin has no time to enter negotiations himself.

“I do not separate the risks of the dam and the risks of the Turkish presence in Libya, because both are an existential threat to Egypt and neither is more important than the other,” Hilal added.


Lebanon’s Tripoli port readies to fill in for blast-hit Beirut

Updated 30 sec ago

Lebanon’s Tripoli port readies to fill in for blast-hit Beirut

  • The vast majority of Lebanon’s food and other imports used to transit through Beirut port
  • Lebanon relies on imports for 85 percent of its food needs

TRIPOLI: Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli is readying its harbor to temporarily replace that of Beirut, which was levelled in last week’s massive explosion, officials said Thursday.
Tripoli port’s capacity is smaller than the capital’s, through which the vast majority of Lebanon’s food and other imports used to transit.
A fire at Beirut port on August 4 caught a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, causing an explosion that devastated swathes of the city and killed at least 171 people.
Immediately after the disaster, Lebanon’s Supreme Defense Council ordered that the port of Tripoli be prepped for “import and export operations.”
“The port of Tripoli can stand in for Beirut on a temporary basis, for the time it will take it to be operational again,” Tripoli port director Ahmad Tamer told AFP.
The smaller ports of Saida and Tyre can also contribute to the effort but their capacity is limited and does not allow for bigger vessels to dock.
Lebanon relies on imports for 85 percent of its food needs and the UN’s World Food Programme has warned that the destruction of the main port could worsen an already alarming situation.
Lebanon’s economic collapse in recent months has seen it default on its debt, sent the local currency into free-fall and poverty rates soaring to near third world levels, all amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tamer said seven ships that were on their way to Beirut on the day of the gigantic explosion immediately rerouted to Tripoli, where they unloaded their cargo.
Tripoli had already undergone major upgrade works in order to accomodate increased traffic expected in connection with the reconstruction effort needed in neighboring, war-ravaged Syria.
Tamer said that before the explosion Tripoli port was only functioning at 40 percent capacity, processing two million tons of imports per year, with a capacity to absorb a maximum of five million tons.
The port director said that he wanted to launch a plan to increase work at the port and hire more employees in order to process more than its current rate of 80,000 containers a year.