Renaissance Dam meetings held to bridge negotiation gap

Water flows through Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 August 2020

Renaissance Dam meetings held to bridge negotiation gap

  • It is the latest stage in talks about the multi-billion dollar project

CAIRO: Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan met Tuesday in another effort to resolve the Renaissance Dam crisis.

The meetings between the three countries’ representatives were aimed at resolving outstanding issues and bringing their divergent views closer together.

It is the latest stage in talks about the multi-billion dollar project. The three nations have been involved in dam talks since 2011, but are yet to reach an agreement due to tensions between Addis Ababa on one hand and Cairo and Khartoum on the other.

Cairo and Khartoum are seeking to sign a binding and legal agreement for all parties in order to set clear texts for the rules about filling the dam, while Addis Ababa wants a non-binding agreement.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is being built around 15 kilometers from Ethiopia’s border with Sudan, has become a major source of discord between the three countries. Egypt fears the dam project could lead to water shortages upstream, while Sudan is concerned about the dam’s safety.

According to the Sudanese Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din Ismail, the latest meetings were aimed at unifying the texts of the draft agreements submitted by the three countries and drafting them in one document by their representatives and facilitators from the African Union (AU).

Ismail said that the unified document would be submitted to South Africa’s president, who currently heads the AU, to review the document and consider the possibility of it becoming the basis for the agreement between the three countries.

Remote meetings have taken place in the past few days with the participation of the Egyptian, Sudanese and Ethiopian ministers of irrigation and foreign affairs. South Africa said that a semi-draft of the agreement between the three countries appeared to be a solution to the crisis and great progress for negotiations.

Mohamed Nasr Allam, the former Egyptian minister of water resources and irrigation, said that Egypt was looking for a legal agreement that Ethiopia was to fill and operate the dam, but not to build on the river except with prior notification, adding that Ethiopia wanted water domination of the sources of the Nile Basin.

He said that the agreement must be binding and contain a clause with a clear legal instrument for resolving disputes. The attempt to come up with a unified draft by the AU was a constructive step, according to Allam, but Addis Ababa needed to adhere to the rules of the negotiation in order not to waste time because Cairo knew what it needed and how to obtain it. 

He expressed his belief that the coming days would witness fresh progress if Ethiopia did not continue its intransigence in the negotiations.

Abbas Al-Sharaqi, an expert in water resources at Cairo University, said that Egypt was seeking rules for the filling of the dam, specifically next year, and linking it to the hydrological conditions and the state of rain in order not to be negatively affected. 

The long-running row between the three countries has caught the attention of Pope Francis, who said last week that he was following the status of the negotiations. He called for dialogue and for the three countries to act for the good of their people.

Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan’s candidate amid east Med tensions

Turkish Cypriot politician Ersin Tatar celebrates his election victory in Turkish-controlled northern Nicosia, Cyprus October 18, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 October 2020

Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan’s candidate amid east Med tensions

  • The European Union has deplored Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further “provocations,” while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region in recent months

NICOSIA: Turkish Cypriots in breakaway northern Cyprus on Sunday narrowly elected right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, in a run-off poll, at a time of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tatar, 60, clinched his surprise victory in a second round of presidential elections, winning 51.7 percent of the vote, official results showed.
He edged out incumbent Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, 72, a supporter of reunification with the Greek Cypriot south of the divided island, leaving attempts to relaunch long-stalled UN-brokered talks hanging in the balance.
Tatar is an advocate of a two-state solution and held the post of premier in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Ankara.
He controversially received the open backing of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the election campaign.
In a victory speech to hundreds of cheering and Turkish flag-waving supporters, Tatar thanked Turkey’s head of state and said: “We deserve our sovereignty — we are the voice of Turkish Cypriots.
“We are fighting to exist within the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, therefore our neighbors in the south and the world community should respect our fight for freedom.”
There was no immediate official reaction from the Greek Cypriot government or ruling party in the south of the island, which is a European Union member state, although opposition parties were quick to lament the outcome.
Erdogan was swift to celebrate the victory, which followed a high 67-percent turnout at the polls.
“I congratulate Ersin Tatar who has been elected president ... Turkey will continue to provide all types of efforts to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people,” he wrote on Twitter.


Ersin Tatar edged out incumbent Mustafa Akinc, leaving attempts to relaunch UN-brokered talks hanging in the balance.

In a telephone call the same night, Erdogan said he was confident the two leaders would maintain close cooperation in all areas, “starting with the hydrocarbon linked activities in the eastern Mediterranean,” his office said.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has become an increasingly assertive regional power that is now engaged in a bitter dispute with Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters.
The European Union has deplored Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further “provocations,” while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region in recent months.
The second-round ballot was triggered after Tatar won 32 percent of the vote on Oct. 11 ahead of Akinci, who garnered just under 30 percent.
Akinci was tipped to secure a second term, having won the backing of Tufan Erhurman, a fellow social democrat who came third last time around.
After his defeat, Akinci, who had accused Ankara of meddling in the polls, thanked his supporters and said: “You know what happened ... I am not going to do politics on this.”
The TRNC, with a population of about 300,000, was established after the north was occupied by Turkey in 1974 in reaction to a coup that aimed to annex Cyprus to Greece.
Earlier in October, Turkish troops angered the Republic of Cyprus by reopening public access to the fenced-off seaside ghost town of Varosha for the first time since Turkish forces invaded the north.
The reopening was announced jointly by Erdogan and Tatar at a meeting in Ankara just days before the first round of polling.
It drew EU and UN criticism and sparked demonstrations in the Republic of Cyprus, which exercises its authority over the island’s south, separated from the TRNC by a UN-patrolled buffer zone.
On the eve of Sunday’s vote, Greek Cypriot demonstrators massed at a checkpoint along the so-called “Green Line,” holding signs that read “Cyprus is Greek,” in protest at the reopening of nearby Varosha to the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkey has repeatedly said it seeks to defend Turkish and Turkish Cypriots’ rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Akinci’s relationship with Ankara had come under strain, especially after he described the prospect of the north’s annexation by Turkey as “horrible” in February.
When Akinci took office in 2015, he was hailed as the leader best placed to revive peace talks.
But hopes were dashed in July 2017 after UN-mediated negotiations collapsed in Switzerland, notably over Greek Cypriot demands for the withdrawal of the tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers still stationed in the TRNC.