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The New Arab Staff

Egypt outlines four conditions for future Renaissance Dam negotiations

Egypt and Sudan claim the GERD will greatly reduce their access to water. [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 February, 2021

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Egypt President Sisi and his foreign minister have sent four conditions to the African Union, which they say must be met to ensure successful negotiation regarding the Renaissance Dam project.
Egypt President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry have outlined four conditions to ensure the resumption of talks regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project.

According to diplomatic sources who spoke to The New Arab’s sister publication, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the four conditions were sent to the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki. 

For successful negotiations at the next African Union (AU) session, chaired by the DRC, the conditions laid out by Egypt must be met by Sudan and Ethiopia, the other two countries involved in the project, as well as the AU. 

Talks have been stalled since the last AU session chaired by South Africa, and led to major setbacks for Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has managed to complete 85 percent of the construction work on the dam and filled it for the first time last summer. 

The GERD is an ambitious $4.6 billion dam on the Blue Nile River, which when completed will be the largest in Africa and is expected to generate 6,000 megawatts of energy.

Once fully operational, it will provide power to some 65 million Ethiopians who are currently without regular electricity, and is hoped to will lead to the industrialisation of the Horn of Africa country, pulling millions out of poverty.

Since it began, the project has been plagued by fears and disagreements. Egypt and Sudan, which lie downstream of the dam, have claimed that it will greatly reduce their access to water. 

Egypt's first request is that Ethiopia abides by any commitment that has been agreed in principle, and guaranteed by the AU, and not to circumvent the texts, as happened with the previous agreements. 

Addis Ababa began filling the GERD following the Washington agreement in February, which was signed by Egypt but never finalised by Ethiopia.

Cairo has requested that a second filling of the dam is not conducted until final technical and legal agreements have been concluded. 

Egypt's second condition calls on the AU to monitor the adherence of the three concerned countries to the Agreement of Principles, which were signed in Khartoum, March 2015.

Egypt insists that the content of the principles must not be changed or interpreted in a way that does not achieve the desired or intended consensus agreed upon at the time.

Through this, Egypt is seeking to ensure a consensus on the fifth point of the Agreement of Principles, which require the three countries: "agreeing upon the guidelines and rules of the first filling of the Renaissance Dam including the different scenarios, in parallel to the construction process of the dam."

The fifth point of the principles also requires Ethiopia to inform both Egypt and Sudan of any circumstance that would require "resetting the dam's operation process".

While the second condition seeks strong oversight by the AU, the third condition calls for a limiting of the role of the international body.

Egypt wants to limit the role of the AU and experts, from outside the concerned countries, and curb their ability to offer points of view, participate in any drafting, or prepare alternative proposals. 

With this, Egypt hopes to inhibit the abilities of AU experts, which they see as being more favourable to the Ethiopian position, and prevent Ethiopian interpretations of previous agreements from being adopted. 

Read more: Egypt and Ethiopia's Nile dam: Negotiating in the shadow of disaster?

Finally, Egypt's fourth condition is that proposals and drafts, which were previously agreed upon by Addis Ababa and Khartoum, are introduced.

Most importantly for Cairo, is the Washington agreements, which the other two sides refused to sign at the time but were included in more recent negotiations.

Egypt's priority is to prevent a second filling of the GERD. Sources indicated that individuals close to President Joe Biden had reached out, following the election, to say that they would not accepts damages caused by the GERD to either Egypt or Sudan.

Although despite these promising sentiments, Cairo fears that the issue will lose priority in Washington and lead to a delay in any positive actions, before Ethiopia can start the second filling next summer. 

Sources have previously confirmed to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that if negations continue to fail, Egypt will feel that it is forced to file a new complaint with the UN Security Council.

But, according to sources, this a road that Sisi is loathed to take, as he seeks to avoid the internationalisation of the project again. 

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