CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will sign an agreement on the Ethiopian controversial Renaissance Dam on March 23, Sudanese ambassador to Cairo Abdel-Mahmoud Abdel-Halim announced Saturday.
On March 6 during tripartite Khartoum talks, ministers of three countries reached a preliminary agreement on the operation of Renaissance Dam.
The initial agreement includes provisions on Nile water shares, the dam’s storage capacity, its environmental impacts and the period of time in which the dam will be filled with water, Youm7 reported, however, the talks did not tackle the dam construction specifications.
All Nile Basin state heads will be invited to attend the ceremony of the agreement signing, Abdel-Halim added in media remarks on the sidelines of the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) in Sharm el-Sheikh.
The construction of the dam has raised Egypt’s concerns that it may negatively affect its Nile Water share. Ethiopia has claimed the dam is necessary for its development, both states agreed to tripartite talks that started in August 2014 and were hosted by Sudan.
In a move some have seen as a thaw, Sisi discussed the controversial dam with Desalegn and agreed to form the tripartite dam committee, in the sidelines of the 23rd African Union (AU) Summit in Malabo on June 26, 2014.
Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Houssam Moghazy stated in August 2014 that Sisi was seeking with the Ethiopian side to carry out a project to obtain 12 billion cubic meters of water for both Egypt and Sudan.
In August, the three countries’ Technical National Committee agreed to choose an international neutral office to evaluate the dam’s effects on Sudan and Egypt. Four international offices (two French, one Dutch, and another Australian) submitted their bids, and the winning bidder is expected to be announced in March.
In May 2013, an advisory panel originally conducted a report on the dam’s impact on downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan.) Egypt, however, rejected that report and studies submitted by the Ethiopian side. The three countries began 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.
Egypt has also expressed concerns on the Entebbe Agreement, by which four Nile Basin states (Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia) would take a larger water share of the Nile, which would affect both Sudan and Egypt. The latter two countries currently receive 90 percent of Nile water as dictated by a treaty signed by all Nile Basin Country member states in 1929, which other riparian countries reject, since it was signed by the British colonial government on behalf of a number of parties.
Additional Reporting by Yossif Ayoub