I wrote – Rana Osama:
The curse of failure continues to haunt the Renaissance Dam negotiations, more than a month after entering the United States on the mediation line between Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum, with “the intransigence of the Ethiopian side and adopting exaggerated positions aimed at imposing a fait accompli policy,” as Egypt asserted in a statement Issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to end again for a “dead end” for the fourth time in 6 years, without tangible progress leading to a “fair and sustainable” agreement that satisfies the interests of all parties.
Over the course of 5 rounds of recent tripartite negotiations on the dam, under the auspices of the US administration and the World Bank, Ethiopia did not hesitate to stick to its obstinate stance, its procrastination and procrastination approach, and wasted time until the filling of the dam began in July, something Egypt strongly rejects, She emphasized on more than one occasion that “operating the dam is not permissible by imposing the fait accompli.”
The first trilateral meeting on the dam – sponsored by the United States – began in Washington on November 6, in the presence of US Treasury Secretary Stephen Munchen and a representative of the World Bank, as meeting observers.
This came at the invitation of an Egyptian to engage an international mediator, following the stalled Khartoum talks that were held earlier last year.
That meeting – which was widely seen as a “spark of hope” to break the stalemate in the negotiations – was agreed upon by a number of items, perhaps the most prominent of which is setting a deadline until January 15, 2020 to reach a final agreement, and if negotiations falter – as has already happened – it is based on Article 10 of the 2015 Declaration of Principles agreement.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Guido Andragacho described it as “beneficial, disturbing, and reversing his country’s steadfast position” from what he described as “the fair use of the Nile water” through the dam planned to be the largest dam in Africa to generate hydroelectric power once it is completed, according to Ethiopian Radio Fana. .
To activate the results of that meeting, 4 other negotiating rounds were held at the level of water resources ministers and technical delegations in the three countries; two in Addis Ababa, a third in Cairo, and a fourth in Khartoum, with the participation of the representatives of the United States and the World Bank as observers, in addition to two meetings in Washington on December 9 and 13 January, to announce what was agreed upon during those rounds, but all failed.
The main points of disagreement
Egypt and Ethiopia differ over the rules for filling and operating periods of the dam, the rules for dealing with drought, droughts that extend during filling periods, generating hydroelectric power and achieving the desired Ethiopian development without harming the downstream countries.
Over the past negotiating rounds, Addis Ababa has continued to wave the filling of the dam unilaterally in violation of international law and affecting Cairos share of the waters of the Nile.
Egypt demands that the period of filling the dam extend to 10 years, taking into account the years of drought, while Ethiopia adheres to a period of 4 to 7 years, in the event of a decrease in rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands, instead of two to 3 years, according to the Ethiopian website “Izega” reported from Member of the Ethiopian negotiating team, Engineer Gideon Asfaou.
Earlier, Egypt proposed passing at least 40 billion cubic meters of water annually from the dam, while the Sudanese proposal came to pass 35 billion, while Ethiopia suggested passing 31 billion.
Although little progress was made on any of the rounds, Ethiopia and Sudan were tweeting out the swarm of failure and stumbling. After the first technical meeting in Addis Ababa, the Sudanese Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Yasser Abbas spoke of “progress and a tripartite consensus on the contentious issues.”
Abbas said that “it was negotiated that filling the reservoir in a period of time may reach 7 years, according to the hydrology of the Blue Nile River,” noting that the negotiation included the issue of the permanent operation of the dam and its effects on the dams system in Egypt and Sudan, according to a broader Sudanese newspaper. Prevalence in Khartoum in a report published in November last year.
This was denied by a member of the Egyptian delegation participating in the negotiations. He said earlier to Masrawy that “the talk of agreeing to 7 years to fill the tank is not real,” adding that “what has been agreed upon to be filling in stages, not years.”
The same thing was repeated after the second round of technical meetings, as a member of the Ethiopian negotiating team said that Egypt and Sudan agreed to the Addis Ababa proposal to start filling the dam reservoir in June 2020, as it rains heavily on the Ethiopian highlands at this time, according to the Ethiopian “Izega” website.
However, a member of the Egyptian delegation participating in the negotiations refuted this, saying that “such conversations are totally incomprehensible.” He added to Masrawy: “All that happened in the meeting was a presentation of the agenda of each country, as the Egyptian proposal related to the state of the Nile and bilateral cooperation in the process of filling the dam,” stressing that the meeting came out without a final agreement on these points.
At the end of the third round of technical meetings in Khartoum, the Sudanese Minister of Irrigation returned to confirm the refutation of the Egyptian side, declaring “a great tripartite convergence over the filling and operation of the dam.” Abbas said that “the three countries submitted proposals on the initial filling and annual operation of the dam, with a review of the definitions of drought and the ongoing drought and the measures necessary to operate it.”
Despite that stumbling block, Ethiopia announced at the end of the fourth round in Addis Ababa earlier this month that it would start filling the dam by next July, claiming that Egypt would submit a proposal to fill the dam in a period of 12 to 21 years. “Egypt came to the negotiations without any intention of reaching an agreement,” said Ethiopian Water Minister Celci Beckley.
This is what Egypt denounced completely and in detail, describing what came in its content as “fallacies”. And she stressed in a strongly worded statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that “it did not specify a number of years to fill the dam, but it was agreed more than a year to fill it in stages depending on the annual revenue of the Blue Nile.”
Egypt said that the four ministerial meetings “did not achieve tangible progress due to Ethiopias intransigence and its attempt to impose the fait accompli unconditionally and without the slightest real guarantees taking into account the water interests of the downstream countries …”, stressing its involvement in the negotiations “in good faith and in a positive spirit in order to reach a fair and balanced agreement” It meets the common interests of the two countries. “
She explained that his proposal leads to “filling the dam within 6 or 7 years if the river’s revenue is average or above average during the filling period, but in the event of drought, the dam can generate 80 percent of its production capacity from electricity, which means that the Ethiopian side bears the burden of drought by a small percentage “.
With this faltering, resorting to Article 10 of the 2015 Declaration of Principles becomes the only option out of the neck of the bottle.
What does Article 10 say?
This article of the “Declaration of Principles” agreement signed 5 years ago bears the name “the principle of the peaceful settlement of disputes”. This agreement sets a course and a timetable for reaching a final agreement on the crisis. It also identifies two escalating steps in the event that the technical committees fail to reach an agreement.
It states that “the three countries shall settle their disputes arising from the interpretation or application of this agreement by consensus through consultations or negotiations in accordance with the principle of good intentions.”
And if the parties do not succeed in resolving the dispute through consultations or negotiations, “they can collectively request conciliation, mediation, or refer the matter to the attention of heads of state or head of government,” according to the text of the article.
In October last year, Egypt demanded that this article be relied upon after negotiations stalled due to the “intransigence of the Ethiopian side” and its rejection of the theses that guarantee the protection of Egypt’s water interests.
In the event that the three countries abide by this agreement, the dam will retain 4.9 billion cubic meters of water in the middle of this year, which will be sufficient for Ethiopia to generate primary energy from the dam in late 2020 using two turbines with a total capacity of 720 megawatts of electricity, according to a previous report published by the site The Ethiopian “Izija”.
How did Ethiopia benefit from delaying the talks?
Amidst this stumbling block, and with its adoption of a trend that Egypt described as “regrettable” and “full of inaccuracies”, while calling for the involvement of South Africa on the crisis line to mediate, while American mediation was unable to resolve it, Ethiopia is moving ahead with the construction of the dam, which costs about 4 billion. American dollar.
Ethiopia announced the completion of about 70 percent of the construction of the dam, which laid the foundation stone in April 2011, according to statements by the project’s director, Kevl Horo, last December.
The Director of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam mentioned that his country has spent 99 billion Ethiopian “birr” (equivalent to US $ 3.1 billion), with an additional 40 billion “Ethiopian” birr (1.2 billion US dollars) needed to finish the project.
Likewise, the Ethiopian Minister of Water, Selci Bickel, announced the start of storing water in the dam during the coming month of July, with the start of its first operation and the start of power generation in December 2020, to be finalized by 2023, according to the official Ethiopian News Agency (INA). the past.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia has completed the construction of the reserve dam for the Renaissance Dam, known technically as the “Saddle Dam”, and to fill the top of it with more than 14 million cubic meters of concrete, on an area of more than 330,000 square meters, according to statements by the supervisor of its construction engineer Eng. Jerma Mengistu, the Ethiopian News Agency (INA).
The Saddle Dam was constructed at a height of no more than 600 meters, and its width is 5.2 kilometers. Designed to prevent groundwater leakage, more than 30,000 plastic films have been placed underground, according to Inna.
The date of completion of the Renaissance Dam was postponed 4 times since its inception, as it was planned to complete its construction within 5 years to be ready in 2016, then the date was postponed to the end of 2018, after which Ethiopia extended the possible deadline for completion of an additional 4 years, and then announced a month before its final completion by 2023 .