Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam talks resume as political tensions mount

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam talks resume as political tensions mount
Workers at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia last year. (AFP)
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Updated 21 November 2020

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam talks resume as political tensions mount

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam talks resume as political tensions mount
  • The latest discussions are part of efforts mediated by South Africa, current leader of the African Union, to reach a legally binding agreement on filling and operating the controversial dam

CAIRO: Ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia launched a new round of talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) this week amid growing political tensions in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
The resumption of negotiations follows a failure by the three countries to reach an agreement on a workable mechanism for the talks earlier this month.
The latest discussions are part of efforts mediated by South Africa, current leader of the African Union (AU), to reach a legally binding agreement on filling and operating the controversial dam.
Egypt said in an official statement that it wanted negotiations to resume as soon as possible in order to reach a “fair and balanced agreement” that preserves the water rights of all three countries.
However, Yasser Abbas, Sudan’s irrigation minister, announced that “the Renaissance Dam negotiations are paused indefinitely.”
“The request to extend the negotiations for 10 days is of no use,” he added.
Abbas said that the GERD will have a greater impact on the Roseires Dam in Sudan than on Egypt’s High Dam.
“Sudan is adhering to the African Union’s condition of changing the methodology. We do not aim to stop the negotiations in order to negotiate in closed circles. There is insistence not to complete the negotiations in the absence of experts,” Abbas added.
Ethiopia confirmed that the meeting reached an understanding on the need to continue talks on the rules for the first mobilization and the annual operation of the Renaissance Dam.
“The president of the Executive Council concluded the meeting and urged the parties to develop a text that could be presented to the meeting of heads of state and government,” it said.
The Ethiopian statement indicated that the tripartite technical meeting chaired by the minister of water, irrigation and energy affairs of Ethiopia is expected to resume.
Sudan insists on a change in the previous negotiation approach and that time limits be set to reach understandings on any negotiation issue.
The discussions held this month ended without an agreement between the three countries on the methodology for completing the negotiations in the next phase.
The three countries agreed that each will submit a report to South Africa on the course of the meetings and the implementation of AU decisions made on June 26 and July 21.
The delegations from the three countries had presented their vision to complete the negotiations in the previous round. During the meeting, Egypt stressed the need to implement the decisions of the AU bureau’s meetings, by reaching a binding legal agreement on filling and operating the dam in a way that achieves the common interests of the three countries and secures their water interests.
Sources concerned with the Nile water issue confirmed that the current negotiations face a number of challenges, including the difficulty of agreeing on a mechanism for resolving disputes stipulated in the Declaration of Principles signed between the leaders of countries in 2015, and the careful coordination and exchange of information regarding the operation of water dams in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, which may lead to major technical problems in the absence of a rapid and compatible mechanism for coordination and exchange of information between the two sides.


Lebanon investigates death of former customs official

Updated 56 sec ago

Lebanon investigates death of former customs official

Lebanon investigates death of former customs official
  • Col. Munir Abu Rjeili was found dead, in his home in Qartaba, some 40 km northeast of Beirut, from a blow to the head
  • Leading Druze politician Walid Jumblatt questioned whether there was a link with the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut port

BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities are investigating the killing of a retired customs officer in what a leading politician described as a “terrible incident.”
Col. Munir Abu Rjeili was found dead in his home on Wednesday in Qartaba, some 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Beirut, with a blow to the head, a security source said.
Leading Druze politician Walid Jumblatt asked on Twitter on Thursday what was behind the killing. He questioned whether there was a link with the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut port that killed about 200 people and devastated swathes of the capital.
“Is this terrible incident to obstruct any serious investigation into the case of the explosion at Beirut port?” Jumblatt wrote.
But a senior interior ministry source said: “So far, no link has been found between the port and the murder.”
Abu Rjeili’s career in Lebanese customs included leading a Beirut division that counters overland smuggling, serving at the airport and heading a division of the Higher Customs Council, according to CV sent by a relative and lawyer, Joseph Khalil.
Abu Rjeili had not been summoned for questioning in the investigation in to the Beirut blast probe and had not served at the port, the source said.
Khalil, the lawyer, said the family was waiting for the results of the investigation.
Four months since the explosion, Lebanese are still awaiting the final results of the investigation, after authorities promised a full and swift probe.
President Michel Aoun last month called for the acceleration of the investigation.
The first warning about the cargo that blew up in Beirut port came in 2014 from another late Lebanese customs officer, Col. Joseph Skaf. Skaf’s family believe his death in 2017 was murder, possibly connected to his long career as a customs officer fighting criminality and drug smuggling.