Renaissance Dam meetings held to bridge negotiation gap

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

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.

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
Updated 7 min 18 sec ago

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
  • With millions living in tents across country’s northwest, threat of COVID-19 is severe
  • $1.6m awarded by non-profit organization funded by UK, US, Canadian, Dutch governments

LONDON: Syria’s White Helmets, the civilian rescue group that recovers victims from rubble after airstrikes in the war-torn country, is now making personal protective equipment (PPE) to further its life-saving mission.
The civil defense service, which has worked to reduce the harm of indiscriminate shelling from the Assad regime, has received a $1.6 million award for the production of PPE from a non-profit organization funded by the UK, US, Canadian and Dutch governments.
Funds from the Humanitarian Grand Challenge group have led to the creation of a PPE-producing facility that has manufactured some 2 million masks.
It is also producing protective gowns and face shields — key equipment in the fight against COVID-19 — and handling the disposal of used PPE for northwest Syria’s population, who live in a precarious area that is predominantly out of the regime’s control. 
“The COVID-19 pandemic was the most difficult challenge the White Helmets faced in 2020,” said Munir Mustafa, its deputy general manager for humanitarian affairs.
“We witnessed the spread of the virus in north-western Syria among humanitarian workers and medical personnel, while the global pandemic made cross-borders logistics almost impossible.”
The White Helmets has enhanced community efforts to keep people safe from COVID-19 amid pressing security challenges.
“Our volunteers and fellow humanitarians, health care providers and other essential workers are safer now and can continue caring for Syrian civilians and responding to the pandemic,” Mustafa said.
The White Helmets, established in 2014, was originally formed for search-and-rescue efforts and to broaden the provision of first responders. It claims to have saved some 120,000 lives.
Its role has developed as challenges facing the Syrian people have grown. Violence in the country has demolished health care facilities, decimating communities and cutting off millions from crucial medical care. 
The bombing of civilian areas has forced many to flee to temporary refugee facilities that are often cramped and in poor condition.
With millions living in tents across the country’s northwest, the threat of COVID-19 is severe.
Around 500 cases of COVID-19 are being recorded per day in northwest Syria, but experts say the true number is much higher due to inadequate testing infrastructure.
The Humanitarian Grand Challenge said: “The White Helmets’ ability to manufacture and distribute personal protective equipment inside Syria will not only protect those working in the overwhelmed health system, but reduce the spread of the virus among the most vulnerable.”