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Breakthrough in Nile dam talks between Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan Foreign Ministers applauded by their delegations after the signing of agreement on GERD outstanding issues on 15 May, 2018 (ENA Photo)
May 16, 2018 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt have agreed on contentious issues pertaining to the technical impact studies and options for filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The agreement was reached in a 15-hour meeting of the ministerial committee on the GERD) including foreign affairs and water ministers and heads of security and intelligence services of the three countries in Addis Ababa on Tuesday night.

The water and foreign ministers and heads of intelligence have signed an agreement including holding a biannual meeting of the leaders of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt to be hosted by the three countries alternately.

The agreement provides to send a letter to the consultant including observations and questions of the three countries on the introductory technical report and to discuss the response at the meeting of the national technical committee in Cairo.

Egypt in the past refused to accept queries from Sudan and Ethiopia on the terms of reference presented by the consultant firm.

But the most important point that the three countries agreed to set up a joint technical team - 5 members from each country- to study the filling of the GERD reservoir and operating the dam. Egypt withdrew its proposal to resort to the World Bank on the matter.

The move is seen as a major concession from Egypt ending an over a year-old outstanding issue. Ethiopia and Sudan strongly rejected the proposal, insisting they can resolve differences without involving a third party.

Also, it was agreed to hold two meetings in Cairo on 18 and 19 June. The first meeting would be held between the national technical committee and the consultant while the ministerial would meet to approve the introductory report after receiving the response of the consultant.

Following the Cairo meetings, the consultant would begin to prepare the social, ecological and economic impact studies as well as the hydrological study pertaining to the scenarios for filling the lake and operating the dam.

In press statements following the meeting in Addis Ababa, Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity Muataz Musa said a positive spirit has prevailed over the meeting as well as a determination from the three parties to reach an agreement on the basis of the declaration of principles signed in Khartoum in March 2015.

“What has been achieved was a result of the instructions of the leaders of the three countries besides continued efforts and patience from the technicians, experts and ministers for about six months and the determination for success was always there in order to achieve aspirations of three peoples,” he said

Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia in March 2015 signed a declaration of principles on the dam project that tacitly approves the dam construction but calls for technical studies aimed at safeguarding the water quotas of the three riparian states.

In September 2016, French engineering consultancy Artelia and BRL groups have been selected to undertake the dam impact studies. The U.K.-based law firm Corbett & Co was selected to manage the legal affairs of the tripartite committee.

The multi-billion dollar dam is being constructed on the Blue Nile, about 20 kilometres from the Sudanese border, and has a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, and is expected to generate electrical power of up to 6,000 megawatts.

Egypt is concerned that the dam could reduce its quota of 55.5 billion cubic meters of the Nile water, while the Ethiopian side maintains that the dam is primarily built to produce electricity and will not harm Sudan and Egypt.

(ST)