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Egypt calls on Ethiopia to push negotiation process to reach agreement on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Construction work on the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia on 21 August 2015 [Sigma PlantFinder/Twitter]
Construction work on the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia on 21 August 2015 [Sigma PlantFinder/Twitter]

On Tuesday, Cairo called on Addis Ababa to push forward negotiations and reach a compromise concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to ensure Ethiopia’s development interests as well as Egypt’s water security.

The issue was tackled during a meeting between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and intelligence coordinator Gen. Abbas Kamel, with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali in the capital Addis Ababa today, according to a statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

The meeting touched on the preparations of an expected summit between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali on the sidelines of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation soon to be held in Beijing, early September.

The Egyptian side also noted “the importance of pushing forward the existing negotiating tracks and overcoming any obstacles to reach the required understanding on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project in a manner that endorses Ethiopia’s development interests and ensures the preservation of Egypt’s water security.”

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Both Egypt’s Foreign Minister and intelligence coordinator conveyed a verbal message from president el-Sisi to the Ethiopian Prime Minister on “ways to strengthen the relations between the two countries, implement the accords agreed upon at the level of the two countries’ leadership, and the negotiations of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, in addition to several other regional issues.”

According to the same statement, the meeting discussed “regional developments in the Horn of Africa region and ongoing efforts to enhance security, stability, and peace in that region, especially with Egypt’s upcoming inauguration to chair the African Union Summit early next year”.

Egypt fears possible negative impacts caused by the Ethiopian dam project on its annual water quota of 55.5 billion cubic meters.  Addis Ababa said that the plan is not aimed at harming Egypt and that the electricity generated by the dam will help to eradicate poverty and promote the development of the country.

Egypt, Sudan (the downstream countries) and Ethiopia have entered into negotiations on the construction of the dam. However, the talks have been repeatedly stalled by disagreements over the dam’s storage capacity and the time spent on filling its water tanks.

In mid-May, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia agreed “to establish a fund to support infrastructure and development purposes in the three countries,” according to a statement by the Egyptian presidency.

The visit of the Egyptian delegation to Ethiopia came after Abiy Ahmed Ali’s commentary, last Saturday. As such, during a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Prime Minister declared that the delay of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s construction, scheduled to end in 2016, was due to the inefficiency of the Ethiopian construction company.

Last Sunday, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ahmad Abou Zaid, denied in televised remarks any connection between Shoukry’s visit and the recent statements of the Ethiopian official.

Abou Zaid added that the visit “aims to push forward the negotiations process about the dam, and will not be limited to discussing this file only”.

He continued: “The visit is scheduled according to the political track and diplomatic contacts between the two countries aiming to ensure the existence of full political support for the negotiating process on the construction project of the dam.”

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