Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia begin new talks over disputed dam

Egypt, which depends on the Nile River to supply its booming population of 100 million people with fresh water, asserts the dam poses an existential threat. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 August 2020

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia begin new talks over disputed dam

  • 1st-phase completion celebrated in Addis Ababa
  • Ethiopia says the dam will provide electricity to millions

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.

BACKGROUND

The negotiation round is aimed at finding solutions to outstanding technical and legal points to lead to a final agreement binding to all parties.

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.


Iran: nuclear deal with world powers worth preserving

Updated 14 min 43 sec ago

Iran: nuclear deal with world powers worth preserving

  • Iran has been steadily breaking restrictions outlined in the 2018 nuclear deal on the amount of uranium it can enrich
  • ‘There is still a broad agreement among the international community that the JCPOA should be preserved’
BERLIN: The head of Iran’s nuclear agency said Monday that the landmark 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers on his country’s atomic program is struggling since the unilateral US withdrawal, but is still worth preserving.
Ali Akbar Salehi told delegates at a conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, has been “caught in a quasi-stalemate situation” since President Donald Trump pulled the US out in 2018.
The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. The remaining world powers in the deal – France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia – have been struggling to offset re-imposed American sanctions.
Iran has been steadily breaking restrictions outlined in the deal on the amount of uranium it can enrich, the purity it can enrich it to, and other limitations in order to pressure those countries to do more.
Salehi, speaking in a video address, said it’s of the “utmost importance” that those countries find a solution to resolve “the difficulties caused by the illegal withdrawal of the US from the deal.”
“There is still a broad agreement among the international community that the JCPOA should be preserved,” he said.
Speaking after Salehi, US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette made no reference to the deal, saying only that the “United States remains committed to addressing the threats posed by the nuclear programs of both North Korea and Iran.”
“On top of its horrific record as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, Iran has a lamentable history of providing only grudging, dilatory, and incomplete cooperation, if at all, with the IAEA. Iran must do more, much more, to ensure both timely and complete compliance with the safeguards obligations,” he said.
The ultimate goal of the JCPOA is to prevent Iran from being able to build a nuclear bomb — something Iran insists it does not want to do.
Though it has broken the pact’s limitations, it still has far less enriched uranium and lower-purity uranium than it had before signing the deal.
It has also continued to allow IAEA inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, which the world powers still in the deal maintain is reason enough to try and keep it in place.
Iran recently granted the IAEA access to two sites dating from before the deal, which Director General Rafael Grossi said he hoped “will reinforce cooperation and enhance mutual trust.”