A general view of the the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia (AFP)
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed that the statement signed after the last round of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations in Washington does not constitute a new agreement on its own.
Shoukry said that the negotiations defined the conceptual frameworks for an agreement, the positions that must be addressed, and various elements related to the issues of concern to the three parties.
In an interview with MENA news agency in Washington, Shoukry said that the United States' mediation contributed to reaching common ground on the general framework agreement on the GERD.
Following the three days of negotiations in Washington between the foreign and irrigation ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, Shoukry said that Egypt is "cautiously optimistic" about reaching a decisive point regarding the GERD.
The Egyptian FM affirmed that another date for negotiations has been decided by the three countries on 28 and 29 January to discuss the technical and legal consultations linked to the final comprehensive version of the agreement.
"The three countries have slated a date to reach an agreement after the next meeting in Washington within a timeframe that is not so long," Shoukry asserted.
"We hope this will be the end. Egypt always deals in good faith and with a high level of understanding for other parties, but we consider this a vital issue that must be dealt with sincerity and precision in order to protect the interests of the Egyptian people and also the people of Sudan and Ethiopia," Shoukry said.
The minister also affirmed that if a final agreement is not reached, then the articles of the Declaration of Principleswill remain in effect, and that the article on conflict resolution will certainly be activated.
The final agreement on the Declaration of Principles between Egypt, Ethiopia And Sudan includes a mechanism for settling disputes, including consultation, negotiation, mediation and conciliation, all of which are tools stipulated by international law to settle any disputes that may arise over the interpretation or application of some provisions of the agreement.
"I am optimistic that the sponsorship and participation of the United States and the World Bank in the preparatory period during the next two weeks will help finalise an agreement," Shoukry said.
The Egyptian FM affirmed that US President Donald Trump attaches special significance to reaching an agreement and that he appreciates the importance of maintaining water security for both Egypt and Sudan as Nile basin countries, as well as what the dam might represent for Ethiopia's development. Shoukry said he expects President Trump will attend the signing of the final agreement.
Shoukry pointed out that the Renaissance Dam negotiations had certainly taken a long time.
"It was expected that an agreement would be reached on several past occasions, especially since Egypt had affirmed its keenness to see Ethiopia receive the full benefits of the dam in terms of development and electricity generation, while considering Egypt's water rights and ensuring the flow of water to both Egypt and Sudan," Shoukry said.
The minister added that the most recent meetings held in the capitals of three countries, as well as the meeting in Washington, have contributed to reaching common ground on the general framework of the agreement.
Shoukry explained that the consultations that spanned five years have created common understanding of the points of view of the involved parties.
"We were hoping that things would happen faster to reach a final agreement in implementation of the principles agreement," Shoukry said. "But we are keen on not missing opportunities and maintaining relations between the three countries because there are many areas that we should take advantage of," the Egyptian foreign minister added.
Shoukry pointed out that the idea of resorting to a mediator other than the US was not raised by neither the three parties nor the sponsoring parties during the Washington negotiations.
Last Sunday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called on South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in Ethiopia's dispute with Egypt in the dam issue.
Following talks in the capital Pretoria, Abiy said he had requested Ramaphosa "mediate between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan" on the matter.
"The consultations in Washington focused on the substantive issues related to the technical issues of filling and operating the dam and the needs of the two downstream countries Egypt, Sudan," Shoukry said.
"Consequently, there was no mediation or sponsorship offered by any other party," he affirmed.