Negotiations over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam delayed

Egyptian officials postponed a meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam between Ethiopia and Egypt amid speculation that Egyptian officials are displeased with the results of negotiations.  

The meeting, which was scheduled for October 3, was meant to be led by the tripartite technical committee studying and negotiating the construction of the dam. The date was agreed upon by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn during their talks in a recent visit to New York for the United Nations’s 70th round of the General Assembly.  

Ethiopian and Sudanese officials did not respond to Egyptian proposals for other meetings to take place October 4–5. The privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm speculated that Ethiopian officials want to delay negotiations until the Ethiopian parliament finishes forming the government.

Sisi’s government has been credited with re-activating negotiations with Ethiopia, after former President Mohamed Morsi’s administration discussed a military attack on the dam, a move perceived as a diplomatic debacle.

However, an anonymous official from the Irrigation Ministry told the privately owned Al-Shorouk that frustrations are growing among Egyptian officials, since negotiations are not resulting in any practical outcomes. He stated the ministry submitted a number of reports stating the current situation cannot continue this way.

The official stated to Al-Shorouk, “Even though the agreed upon studies are carried out … There will not be results for at least 11 months and in light of the continued construction of the dam, the results of the studies will be useless, especially in when it comes to the height and size of the dam.”

The source explained that they have not been granted access to the dam to conduct the inspections agreed upon by the three countries.

After announcing the meeting between the three states’ water ministers, Maghazi denied that the course of negotiations had changed, saying only the change was the date of the meeting.

Conflict surrounding the dam goes back six years, with Egypt attempting several times to prevent construction of the dam due to concerns over Ethiopia obstructing its access to the Nile waters. In 2010, Egypt expressed its official grievances to the United Nations and the African Union and demanded that funding to the dam be cut.

Ethiopia began the US$4.8 billion construction process in May 2013 and announced it was done with 32 percent of the dam in March 2014. The African nation has continually stated that the dam will not prevent the flow of water to Egypt, arguing that the dam’s primary purpose is to create a source of hydraulic power for Ethiopia.

Egypt currently receives 66 percent of the Nile’s waters as per a 1959 treaty with Sudan that Ethiopia was not party to.

In March, 2015 Egypt signed a trilateral declaration of principles with Ethiopia and Sudan, which included cooperation between the three countries regarding their water needs with the aim of improving sustainable development and regional economic integration. All three countries also agreed to not cause harm or damage to any of the signatories.

However, the declaration did not include any technical measures guaranteeing Egypt’s share of the Nile water following the completion of the dam.