After years of tension and disagreement, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have resumed negotiations regarding the construction of the controversial dam on the Nile River.
The talks were initiated following a recent statement by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who expressed their commitment to reaching an agreement on the operation of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam within four months.
The dam, situated on the Blue Nile, a major tributary of the Nile River, has been a source of concern for Egypt. The country, heavily reliant on the Nile for its water supply, views the dam as a potential threat to its water security and even as an existential risk. With a population of over 100 million people, Egypt depends on the Nile for both agriculture and human consumption. Approximately 85% of the Nile’s flow originates from Ethiopia.
The latest round of talks was announced by the Egyptian Irrigation Ministry in Cairo. Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation, Hani Sewilam, emphasised the country’s desire for a legally binding agreement that addresses the operation and filling of the dam. Sewilam mentioned the existence of various technical and legal solutions but did not go into detail.
Tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia escalated when the latter began filling the dam’s reservoir without a prior agreement. This move was met with strong opposition from Egypt, which expressed concerns over the potential consequences of such action.
The negotiation process seeks to find a balance between the interests and water security needs of all parties involved. The talks aim to establish protocols for the operation and filling of the dam that take into account Egypt’s concerns and ensure the equitable distribution of water resources among the three countries.
It is crucial for all parties to approach these negotiations with a spirit of compromise and cooperation. The Nile River is not only a vital natural resource but also a shared heritage, connecting different nations and communities. Any agreement reached should reflect the principles of fairness, sustainability, and mutual respect.
The negotiation process is complex, as it involves technical, legal, and environmental considerations. However, finding a mutually agreeable solution is not only necessary but also achievable. Previous negotiations have demonstrated that all parties are willing to engage in dialogue and find common ground.
International mediation and support may play a crucial role in facilitating the negotiation process. Objective third-party involvement can help ensure a fair and impartial assessment of the issues at hand and provide an unbiased platform for discussions.
There are still important unresolved issues regarding the potential release of water downstream in the event of a multi-year drought and the process for resolving future disputes between the three countries involved. Ethiopia has declined to accept binding arbitration as a final step in the project.
Ethiopia asserts that the dam is necessary, as a large portion of its population lacks access to electricity.
Sudan desires Ethiopia to coordinate and share data on the dam’s operation in order to prevent flooding and safeguard its own power-generating dams along the Blue Nile, which serves as a major tributary of the Nile. The dam is located just 10 kilometres (6 miles) from Sudan’s border.