CAIRO: A new round of Renaissance Dam negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan has started, less than 24 hours after thousands of Ethiopians celebrated the dam’s first filling.
The fresh talks were held through a video conference call between the water ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia and will continue during the next two weeks. They are taking place under the auspices of the African Union and in the presence of experts and observers from the US, the European Commission and the African Union Office.
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.
The negotiations, which were postponed for a week at Sudan’s request, are for further internal consultation. The negotiation round is aimed at finding solutions to outstanding technical and legal points to lead to a final agreement binding to all parties.
Last week, the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation spokesman Mohamed El-Sebaei said that Egypt was keen to reach a fair and sustainable agreement for all parties in the dam crisis.
“Egypt will participate in the next stage of the negotiation process with clear foundations, especially in the legal aspect. The Sudanese side has concerns about the safety of the dam, especially since the dam’s safety studies have not been completed yet,” said El-Sebaei.
During a meeting held a week ago, Egypt and Sudan expressed their concerns about the unilateral filling of the dam by Ethiopia as it raised questions about the feasibility of the current course of negotiations and reaching a fair agreement to fill and operate which countries had warned against, according to a previous statement by the Ministry of Irrigation.
Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry called a number of members of US Congress and briefed them on the developments of the Renaissance Dam file.
The Sudanese Minister of Irrigation, Yasser Abbas, is seeking a greater role for experts and limiting negotiations to the outstanding points without adding any new ones.
He also proposed a specific agenda for the next two-week negotiation period and prepared clear protocols for exchanging information and reports between all parties and building on what was agreed upon in the previous negotiation round.
Abbas added that the most complicated issues in the Renaissance Dam negotiations in the previous period were on the legal, not the technical side.
The UK supports the resumption of trilateral negotiations. According to the Ethiopian News Agency, UK Secretary of State for African Affairs James Doddridge welcomed the negotiations at the end of his three-day visit to the Ethiopian capital.
On Sunday, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopians celebrated the progress made in building the Renaissance Dam. Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen called on the public to march in support of the dam and its construction.
In response to calls through social media, thousands of Ethiopians flooded the streets of Addis Ababa, waving Ethiopian flags and holding up banners.