Egypt, Ethiopia and Su­dan agree to de­lay dam fill­ing

The three coun­tries to ‘re­frain from tak­ing any uni­lat­eral mea­sures, in­clud­ing the fill­ing of the dam’

Arab News - - News Middle East - Sherif El Touny Cairo

Egypt, Ethiopia and Su­dan have agreed to de­lay the fill­ing of the Grand Ethiopian Re­nais­sance Dam (GERD) un­til a fi­nal deal is reached, the Egyp­tian pres­i­dency said on Fri­day.

The three coun­tries de­cided to form a com­mit­tee of le­gal and tech­ni­cal ex­perts to draft a fi­nal deal, and will “re­frain from tak­ing any uni­lat­eral mea­sures, in­clud­ing the fill­ing of the dam, be­fore the agree­ment is reached.”

The an­nounce­ment came af­ter an emer­gency African Union on­line sum­mit of lead­ers of the three coun­tries, chaired by South African Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

In an in­ter­view, for­mer Egyp­tian Ir­ri­ga­tion Min­is­ter Mo­hammed Nasr Al­lam de­scribed the de­ci­sion as a po­lit­i­cal vic­tory for Egypt.

“Cairo de­manded a halt to any uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion taken by Ethiopia re­gard­ing the rules for fill­ing the Re­nais­sance Dam. The Ethiopian re­treat came be­cause they know Egypt has a prom­i­nent place in the Security Coun­cil. I ex­pect the de­ci­sion will be in the in­ter­ests of Egypt,” he said.

Last week, Ethiopia said it would be­gin fill­ing the dam in July, even with­out the ap­proval of the two down­stream coun­tries.

How­ever, on Satur­day Ethiopia said it will reach a fi­nal agree­ment with Egypt and Su­dan on “a few pend­ing mat­ters” over the dis­puted $4.8 bil­lion dam within the next two weeks.

“Ethiopia is sched­uled to be­gin fill­ing the GERD within the next two weeks, dur­ing which time the re­main­ing con­struc­tion work will con­tinue. It is in this pe­riod that the three coun­tries have agreed to reach a fi­nal agree­ment on a few pend­ing mat­ters,” the Ethiopian prime min­is­ter’s of­fice said.

Mo­hamed Besheer, a po­lit­i­cal stud­ies and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions expert, told Arab News the agree­ment is an im­por­tant step “only if Ethiopia de­cides to com­ply with in­ter­na­tional law. It may be the start of a ma­jor cri­sis in the re­gion if Ethiopia con­tin­ues the pol­icy of ma­neu­ver­ing and time wast­ing.” He added that the state­ment is­sued on Satur­day by the Ethiopian

FASTFACT

The three coun­tries de­cided to form a com­mit­tee of le­gal and tech­ni­cal ex­perts to draft a fi­nal deal, and will ‘re­frain from tak­ing any uni­lat­eral mea­sures, in­clud­ing the fill­ing of the dam, be­fore the agree­ment is reached.’

gov­ern­ment dif­fers from state­ments is­sued by Egypt, Su­dan and the African Union.

Su­danese Prime Min­is­ter Ab­dalla Ham­dok said that the three lead­ers have agreed to “post­pone the fill­ing of the dam un­til an agree­ment is signed.”

The tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee will try to strike a deal within two weeks, as sug­gested by Ethiopia, said

Ham­dok’s of­fice.

The com­mit­tee will also in­clude lead­ers of Kenya, Mali and Congo, as well as in­ter­na­tional ob­servers, in­clud­ing the US, EU and South Africa.

Last week Egypt called on the UN Security Coun­cil to in­ter­vene in or­der to restart talks on the megapro­ject, and warned that fill­ing the dam with­out a deal would “threaten in­ter­na­tional peace and security.” Su­dan joined Egypt in voic­ing con­cerns to the UN body, say­ing in a let­ter on Wed­nes­day that the uni­lat­eral fill­ing of the dam, lo­cated around 15 km from the Su­danese border, could “cause sub­stan­tial risks” to Khar­toum and en­dan­ger the lives of mil­lions of peo­ple liv­ing down­stream.

AFP

The Blue Nile River passes through the Grand Re­nais­sance Dam – at the core of a dis­pute be­tween Egypt, Ethiopia and Su­dan – near Guba in Ethiopia.

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