Egypt Awaits Washington Agreement on Renaissance Dam, Prepares Alternative Options

Wednesday, 26 February, 2020 - 09:45 -

Egypt Awaits Washington Agreement on Renaissance Dam, Prepares Alternative Options

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Ethiopian workers on scaffolding during construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam near Sudanese-Ethiopian border. (AFP)
Cairo - Mohammed Abdo Hassanein

Egypt is looking forward to the latest round of US-brokered talks this week that could end a regional conflict with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River.

According to observers, Cairo is seeking to end the dispute through a fair agreement that takes into account the interests of Addis Ababa and protects Egypt's water rights.

However, it is also preparing alternative options in case parties fail to agree, in light of “Ethiopian intransigence.”

Ethiopia will skip the scheduled Washington talks this week with Egypt and Sudan, the country’s water ministry announced Wednesday, saying the “country’s delegation hasn’t concluded its consultation with relevant stakeholders.”

“The decision has been communicated with the US Treasury secretary,” the ministry of water, irrigation and energy said on its Facebook page.

A final deal on the massive dam had been expected this month.

Yet doubts remain about the ability of the three countries to overcome all obstacles due to disagreement on its terms.

The US Treasury Secretary had invited the foreign and water ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to a two-day meeting in Washington on February 27 that will be attended by President of the World Bank.

The US Treasury has been sponsoring the talks since November, with the participation of the World Bank.

Officials from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan had on two occasions in January delayed the signing of the deal to resolve the GERD dispute.

Spokesman of the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed al-Sebai had previously told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country was committed to the recent joint statement which set the end of February as the deadline for negotiations.

The ongoing negotiations aim to agree on the rules for filling and operating the dam, in order to avoid water crises in Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt relies on the Nile for up to 90 percent of its fresh water and fears the dam, which is being built in Ethiopia close to the border with Sudan, will restrict already scarce supplies.

Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile which joins the White Nile in Khartoum and runs on to Egypt, says the dam will not disrupt the river’s flow and hopes the project will transform it into a power hub for the electricity-hungry region.