Cairo opens 2nd round of tripartite talks on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
photo courtesy of Egypt's Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation
By SAMAR SAMIR

CAIRO: The second round of the tripartite talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam resumed in Cairo Thursday with the aim of choosing a consultant office to conduct studies concerning the dam’s impact on the downstream Nile countries.

“Our talks and the discussions of the Nile must be founded on the solid basis of mutual benefit and no harm; to put it simply, our brotherly talks must aim for a win-win scenario for all parties,” said Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Moghazy at a Thursday press conference.

The 12-member Technical National Committee (TNC) of the three countries agreed in September during their meetings in Addis Ababa that Egypt would host the second round of the talks on Oct. 16 and 17.

The construction of the dam chilled relations between Addis Ababa and Cairo. Egypt said the construction would affect its share of Nile water, whereas Ethiopia has claimed the dam is necessary for its development. But in a move some have seen as a thaw, both states agreed to the tripartite talks that started in August and were hosted by Sudan.

Also at the press conference, Ethiopian Water Minister Alemayehu Tegenu affirmed his country’s commitment to working with Egypt and Sudan by accepting a report by an international panel of experts and an agreement to conduct two recommended studies.

He emphasized that his country’s foreign policy was based on “no significant harm and a win-win approach.”

“Once again I would like to assure both Egypt and Sudan that the GERDP (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project) is a flagship project of the government and people of Ethiopia with the objective of contributing to poverty eradication by providing clean energy to Ethiopia and the region,” Tegenu said.

For his part, Sudanese Water Minister Moataz Abdullah highlighted the significance of cooperation among the three countries.

“I indeed ask all to exert all efforts possible to promote the cooperation among us,” he said at Thursday’s conference.

An advisory panel originally conducted a report on the dam’s impact on downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan) in May 2013. However, Egypt rejected that report and the studies submitted by the Ethiopian side. The three countries started their negotiations in three sessions in November and December of 2013 and January 2014, but the talks came to an impasse after failing to reach an agreement to implement the report.

Still, talks over the dam—which has been under construction since April 2011—were eventually resumed in Khartoum in August.

The three countries are in negotiations to choose a law office to contract with the consultant office that will be chosen by the TNC, Egyptian expert delegation head Alaa Yassin told reporters on the sideline of the conference.

The countries will provide money for conducting the studies to the consultant office, he said, noting that the law office will be independent of the three countries.

“In case the three countries reach no agreement on choosing the office, another committee of international experts will be chosen next month,” Yassin added.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi met Thursday with the visiting Sudanese and Ethiopian water officials, and affirmed the importance of cooperation between the three countries, according to a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.

Egypt will announce its new stance on the Renaissance Dam after the issuance of the consultant office’s final report, said Moghazy in previous statements during his visit to the dam site in September.

Also, the Egyptian Water Ministry denied in a press statement media reports originally published by Al-Masry Al-Youm on Oct. 9 reporting the three countries agreed to exclude any U.S. consultancy companies from the project to prevent a possible information leak to Israel.

The ministry added in its statement such remarks could “impede” the negotiations with the other two countries.

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