We understand Ethiopia's reasons to postpone dam meeting, but want compliance with set timeframe: Egypt

Ahram Online , Sunday 18 Feb 2018

Trilateral talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam were due to take place on 24-25 February in Khartoum, but have been delayed due to political crisis in Ethiopia

A general view of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam, as it undergoes construction, along the river Nile in Benishangul Gumuz Region, Guba Woreda, Ethiopia March 31, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt understands the reasons for Ethiopia requesting a postponement of the trilateral ministerial meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) scheduled for late February, but hopes there will be compliance with agreed timeframes for resolving technical issues, Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Sunday.

Sudan was due to host the meeting between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on 24-25 February, but said on Saturday that it was postponing it at the request by Addis Ababa, following the recent resignation of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Foreign and water ministers as well as intelligence officials from the three countries were due to meet in a fresh bid to end a standoff over the $4 billion-hydroelectric project, which Egypt fears could greatly diminish its share of the Nile waters.

In a statement on Sunday, Egypt's foreign ministry said that Egypt is "aware of the conditions that promoted Ethiopia to request that the meeting be postponed, which we hope will pass soon."

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his surprise resignation in a televised speech on Thursday, saying he wanted to make way for further reforms. A day later, the country imposed a six-moth state of emergency to quell potential unrest.

The Egyptian ministry said, however, that Egypt hopes "there will be compliance with the timeframe set by the leaders to resolve outstanding disagreements on technical issues, especially as the issue of the Renaissance Dam affects the interests of all three countries."

It urged "strict implementation" of the leaders' directives as well as "urgent action to find solutions that safeguard the interests" of the three countries.

In January, the leaders of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan set a one-month deadline to draw up ways to end a stand-off in negotiations over the construction of the dam.

Egypt has repeatedly expressed concerns over the stalling of negotiations over a disputed study on the dam's impact on downstream countries. Cairo fears the 6,000-megawatt dam, will reduce the supply of Nile water, which it almost exclusively relies on for drinking water and irrigation.

Ethiopia, which hopes to become Africa's largest power exporter, maintains that the project will not harm Egypt. Meanwhile, Sudan supports the dam because it will provide electricity and irrigation.

Delegations from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia met in Cairo in November to approve a study by a French firm tasked with assessing the dam’s environmental and economic impact. But negotiations stalled when the three countries failed to reach consensus on the initial report.

Last month, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi held talks with Desalegn and Sudan's Foreign Minister Omar Hassan Al-Bashir in Addis Ababa.

Following the talks, El-Sisi said that the interests of the three countries would not be harmed by the project. El-Sisi's comments were echoed by Sudan's Al-Bashir.

Earlier in January, El-Sisi met with Desalegn in Cairo and said Cairo would not allow differences over the dam affect relations with Addis Ababa. 

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