Technical committee on Ethiopian dam concludes meeting in Sudan

Ahram Online , Tuesday 26 Jun 2018

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Photo: Egyptian presidency spokesman official facebook)

The technical committee looking into the filling rate of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s reservoir and the dam’s operation concluded a round of meetings in Khartoum on Tuesday.

Egypt and Sudan presented their proposals to the committee, which includes experts and academics from all three countries, on how the under-construction dam can be operated without harming their interests.

The three countries also held talks to decide a date for the next nine-party talks on the dam, which include the ministers of irrigation and foreign affairs and the heads of the intelligence services of the three countries, the Egyptian press reported on Monday.

The previous nine-party meeting was held in May in Addis Ababa.

Egypt has long argued that the dam over the Blue Nile could threaten its supply of Nile water.

This week’s meetings came a few days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, elected in March, survived an assassination attempt at a campaign rally.

Egypt has condemned the attempt "in the strongest terms", and unequivocally denounced any attempt to disrupt security and stability in Ethiopia.

Egyptian political analyst Abdel-Khalek Farouk said he doubted that the attempt would have any significant effect on the negotiations.

"The Ethiopian dam is a national project and a public ambition for the Ethiopian people that has nothing to do with the affiliation of the leadership or the internal situation in the county,” Farouk added, going on to criticise Egypt's policies in regardto the Nile issue in the years since Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

The Egyptian negotiation ceiling now has been lowered to extend the filling of the dam process to 7-10 years instead of three, a demand that the new Ethiopian leadership may show some flexibility in responding to in light of the current internal situation in the country, Farouk said.

Days before the assassination attempt on the Ethiopian prime minister, the third nine-party meeting, which had been scheduled to begin on 18 June in Cairo, was postponed, reducing optimism that had been generated by the visit to Cairo by Ahmed earlier in June.

Ahmed’s visit had been widely viewed as positive. “We will never harm the people of Egypt,” he pledged during a joint press conference with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi at the end of his two-day visit.

Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid had said that the third nine-party meeting had been postponed until after the three countries had finished presenting their inquiries about the preliminary report of the consultancy firm on the impact of the dam on downstream countries, and had received a reply.

Ethiopia and Sudan have not accepted the results of the report, issued in March 2017 by the firm on the potential impact of the dam on downstream countries, which concluded that the speed of construction could negatively affect Egypt's water share.

Egypt has repeatedly voiced concerns that the rate at which the GERD's reservoirs are being filled could reduce its share of Nile water, while Ethiopia has said that the $4 billion hydropower project is needed for the country's development.

In May, Ethiopia announced that the dam was 64 percent complete.

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