Saudi Arabia ‘attempting to mediate’ dispute between Nile countries

Saudi Arabia making low-key contact with Egypt-Sudan over Nile dispute with Ethiopia: reports
3 min read
24 March, 2021
Saudi Arabia has reportedly made low key contacts with Egypt and Sudan in an effort to mediate the two countries’ simmering dispute with Ethiopia over a controversial Nile dam
Sudan fears Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam could negatively affect its own Roseires Dam (pictured) [Getty]
Saudi Arabia has made unpublicised contacts with Egypt and Sudan in recent days, in an effort to mediate their long-simmering dispute with Ethiopia over a controversial dam on the River Nile, anonymous Egyptian diplomatic sources have told The New Arab's Arabic-language service.

The reported mediation effort follows a meeting last Thursday between Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen and the Saudi ambassador to Addis Ababa, Sami Jamil Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia has not announced any details about that meeting.

The African Union (AU) has been leading mediation efforts in the dispute over Ethiopia's Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), constructed on the Blue Nile river, since last year.

Egypt fears the dam will severely reduce its supply of life-giving Nile waters, with potentially catastrophic consequences for farmers. Sudan fears that the GERD will impact the operation of its own Nile dams and expose millions of its citizens to flooding.

Recently, Egypt and Sudan have called for a 'quartet' of countries and international organisations - made up of the US, the UN, and the EU as well as the African Union - to jointly mediate the dispute over the GERD.

Read also: Sudan says accepts UAE offer to mediate on Ethiopia border, dam

Ethiopia, however, has rejected this idea, saying that only the AU should be involved in mediation efforts.

The Egyptian diplomatic sources who spoke to The New Arab’s Arabic-language service said that Egypt and Sudan had informed Riyadh they would insist on quartet mediation of the dam dispute and rejected a unilateral Ethiopian filling of the GERD this spring.

Cairo had "requested that Riyadh focus this mediation on getting Ethiopia back to negotiations according to the Egyptian-Sudanese proposal, and prevent [Ethiopia] taking provocative new acts, which could endanger the whole region", an Egyptian diplomatic source said.

The sources added that Cairo did not expect direct negotiations with Ethiopia to take place soon and Saudi Arabia had expressed reservations about the way Ethiopia was dealing with the GERD.

Saudi Arabia was also trying to make sure that no armed conflict would break out in the future over the GERD, according to the sources.

There have been deadly clashes in recent weeks in the disputed Al-Fashaqa region on the Khartoum-Addis Ababa border between Sudanese troops and Ethiopian militia fighters.

Egypt has previously indicated that it could use military force to protect its water supply.

Last week The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported that Egypt's tightly-controlled media had been given instructions by the government to discuss "the necessity of solving [the dam dispute] by force".

Egypt's military Chief of Staff, General Mohammed Farid, visited Sudan to sign an "unprecedented" military cooperation deal earlier this month.

This was followed a few days later by a visit by Sudanese Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok to Cairo to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.


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