A dead-end ahead for the Ethiopia-Egypt negotiations

Ethiopia and Egypt have failed to resolve a long-running dispute
over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam during the latest
round of talks this week.
The deadline set by the USA to reach an agreement between Egypt,
Sudan, and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is
nearing completion, and the three countries are scheduled to meet
in Washington on January 13, to evaluate what was discussed in
the four meetings.
The three countries are seeking to reach a final agreement before
January 15, the end of the American deadline, especially since
Ethiopia officially announced its intention to start filling the
Renaissance Dam next July.
No one expects that the three countries will reach a final
agreement before January 15, because the same issues have not
been resolved over years of negotiations and meetings.
Officials announced that the fresh round of talks between Ethiopia,
Egypt and Sudan on the water filling strategy and operation of the
dam being built by Addis Ababa on the Nile ended inconclusively
on Thursday.
Any agreement in the fourth and last round of talks could not be
reached, according to Ethiopian Minister of Water Seleshi Bekele
who said, “Egypt came up with a new matrix that sets the time of
the filling of the dam in 12 to 21 years,” and he considered that
suggestion unacceptable.
Officials said Thursday that some progress had been made, though
they remained at odds over major sticking points, including how
fast the dam’s reservoir would be filled.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a source of
tension ever since Ethiopia broke ground on the project in 2011.

Ethiopia says the electricity the dam will provide is essential for its
development. But Egypt depends on the Nile for about 90 per cent
of its irrigation and drinking water and fears the dam could lead to
acute water and food insecurity.
The talks that concluded Thursday in the Ethiopian capital Addis
Ababa are part of a dialogue between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan
that began in November and is supposed to yield an agreement
next week.
“We looked at various issues on filling and operation. We
converged on many points, but we couldn’t finalise our
agreement,” Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele told
His Egyptian counterpart, Mohamed Abdel Aty, said the dialogue
had brought “clarity” but no deal.
The biggest hurdle initially is filling the dam’s reservoir, which can
hold 74 billion cubic metres of water.
Egypt is worried Ethiopia will fill the reservoir too quickly,
reducing water flow downstream.
Ethiopia has said it would like to fill the reservoir over a period of
four to seven years.
On Thursday Selesh said Egypt submitted a new proposal in which
the reservoir would be filled over a period of 12 to 21 years, and
this is not acceptable by any measure,” he said. Egyptian officials
did not immediately comment on this statement.
The Nile River’s two main tributaries — the Blue and White Niles
— converge in the Sudanese capital Khartoum before flowing north
through Egypt toward the Mediterranean Sea.
Cairo claims historic rights to the Nile, and the International Crisis
Group warned last March that the countries “could be drawn into
conflict” over the Nile river water.

Although Cairo has indicated its willingness to compromise on a
large portion of its share of river water, Ethiopia appears as if it is
seeking to start filling the dam’s lake without any agreement.
The United States stepped in last year to initiate the tripartite
dialogue, setting a January 15 deadline to resolve the dispute.
The final meeting will take place next week in Washington.