05 December 2020 04:57 AM

Egypt & the Renaissance Dam

Tuesday، 08 October 2019 05:42 PM

Introduction

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis has entered its tenth consecutive year and imposed itself recently after Cairo had submitted a fair technical proposal that takes into account the interests of Ethiopia and its electricity needs from the dam, without seriously damaging the Egyptian water interests and its share of water estimated at 55.5 billion cubic meters according to the agreements signed between Egypt and. All these agreements preserved the water resources of the two downstream countries, and pledged not to harm their water interests by establishing dams for projects that impede the flow of water to those countries without consulting the leaders of the three countries and agreeing between them.

In light of the negotiation deadlock among the three countries over four years since the start of direct negotiations regarding the agreement on Declaration of Principles in 2015 in Khartoum, which did not achieve any tangible results, an effective international role is needed to overcome the current stalemate in negotiations, bring the view of the three countries closer, and to reach a fair and balanced agreement based on respect for the principles of the international law governing the management and use of international rivers, which allows countries to benefit from their water resources without harming the interests and rights of other countries. Presidency Spokesman Bassam Rady recalled the speech delivered by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi during the UN General Assembly on Egypt’s openness to all international efforts to mediate in order to reach the aspired agreement.

First: Egypt's management of GERD following June 30 revolution:

Following June 30 revolution, Egypt took the negotiating option in dealing with the crisis of GERD, based on a set of governing rules, namely:

- Develop the bilateral relations between Egypt and Ethiopia;

- Share the confrontation of challenges facing the African continent;

- Expand the framework of cooperation and integration of objectives;

- Seek to find a common vision for both Egypt and Ethiopia to resolve the repercussions of the establishment of the dam;

- Highlight the "all win" principle in the joint negotiations between the three countries; and

- Express concerns about the negative effects of the dam on water security, especially after the Malabo Declaration, which led to the resumption of negotiations again after an interruption of eight months and the signing of the declaration of principles of the GERD.

Second: Egypt’s proposal on the rules of filling and operating the GERD

The Egyptian vision for the procedures of filling the dam is based on clear principles, according to the "Declaration of Principles" signed by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in March 2015. Article V of the Declaration specifies the necessity of cooperation in the procedures of filling the dam in order to ensure the development process without harming the interests of any party, implement the recommendations of the International Committee of Experts, and respect the final outputs of the Final Report of the Tripartite Committee of Experts on the recommended studies, in the Final Report of the International Committee of Experts during the various phases of the project.

It gives to the three countries the right to use the final outputs of the joint studies recommended in the report of the International Committee of Experts and agreed by the Tripartite Commission of Experts, with a view to agreeing on the guidelines and rules of first filling of the GERD, which encompass all different scenarios, in parallel with the process of building the dam, and agreeing on the guidelines and the annual operating rules of the GERD, which the owner of the dam may adjust from time to time.

The agreement affirms the need to notify the two downstream countries of any unforeseen or emergency circumstances that require a reset to the operation of the dam.

Egypt is keen to deepen the bonds of cooperation with the Nile Basin countries and understands that these countries, including Ethiopia, need to build projects on the Nile to serve their development plans, without harming the water interests of the two downstream countries, especially Egypt, which depends entirely on the Nile to meet its water needs. Egypt has always stressed the importance of the international community in playing a constructive role and in urging all parties to be flexible to reach a satisfactory agreement for all.

Third: The most important rounds of negotiations on the GERD

1 - 2011 rounds

In April 2011, the Ethiopian side announced the construction of the dam under the delicate conditions characterized by the imbalance following the January 25th, 2011 revolution.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister has proposed the formation of a joint tripartite technical committee, including the water ministers of the three countries, to meet and examine the issue of the dams in all its aspects and to reach a common vision and an agreement that would be a satisfactory formula for all parties.

Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, a delegation of irrigation experts in the Nile water sector, representatives of Foreign Ministry and other concerned bodies, including Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Nile Basin Countries represented Egypt at these meetings. The first meetings of the committee began on 28-29 November, 2011.

Egypt has entered in series of rounds of the Egyptian-Sudanese-Ethiopian talks characterized by Ethiopian stern attitude and intransigence which resulted in resorting to a global expert house to assess the dam and determine its effects and consequences. That stage ended in March 2015.

Talks have gone through many stages, which began with agreement on the formation of the International Committee of Experts to evaluate the project, including two experts from Sudan, two experts from Egypt and four international experts from Germany, France and South Africa in the fields of dam engineering, water resources planning, hydrological and environmental works and the social and economic impacts of dams

2 - 2014 rounds

Following a meeting between President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister, the Malabo Declaration was issued on June 28, 2014 in the form of a joint statement, stating that both parties had decided to form a supreme committee under their direct supervision to handle all aspects of bilateral and regional relations on the political, economic, social and security fields. The two sides also stressed the centrality of the Nile River as a basic resource for the life and existence of the Egyptians, as well as their awareness of the development needs of the Ethiopians. A number of principles have been agreed upon:

1 - Respect of principles of dialogue and cooperation as basis for achieving mutual gains, and avoiding harming each other.

2. Prioritize the establishment of regional projects to develop financial resources to meet the increasing demand of water and to address the water shortage.

3. Respect the principles of international law.

4. Immediate resumption of the works of the Tripartite Committee on GERD to implement the recommendations of the International Committee of Experts and respect the results of the studies to be carried out during the various phases of the dam project.

5 - Commitment of the Ethiopian government to avoid any potential damage from the GERD on Egypt’s use of water.

6- Commitment of the Egyptian government to hold constructive dialogue with Ethiopia, which takes into account its development needs and the aspirations of the Ethiopian people.

7- Commitment of the two States to work within the framework of the Tripartite Committee well intensions and consensus.

In August 2014, the fourth meeting of the irrigation ministers in the three countries convened in Khartoum after eight months of interruption, and a mechanism to implement the recommendations of the International Committee of Experts on the GERD was agreed upon.

The two sides signed the final statement under the auspices of Sudan, which states:

- The formation of quartet committee of experts from the three countries in addition to an international consulting company to conduct the two additional studies of the dam.

- The statement approved the selection of international experts to resolve any dispute that may arise during the final results in a maximum period of two weeks.

Then several rounds were held during 2014-2015. The terms of reference of the National Technical Committee and its procedural rules have been drafted and agreed on the general criteria to evaluate and select the international consulting companies entrusted with the work of the technical studies. Seven international consulting companies have been agreed upon and one of them has been selected for implementation.

3 - 2015 rounds

On March 23, 2015, the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have signed in this round a declaration of principles on the GERD, including 10 basic principles. Full text of 'Declaration of Principles' signed by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia

On 22, 2015, the seventh round of technical committee meetings was held in Khartoum and it issued a statement containing the rules and frameworks of the works of two international consultants’ offices in carrying out the required studies of the GERD and set the date of August 12, 2015 to receive the revised technical offer.

On November 7-8, 2015, the ninth round of talks by the National Committee of GERD took place in Cairo, in the presence of the Ministers of Water Resources of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, with the participation of 12 experts from the members of the Committee. The meeting came in order to activate the agreed step regarding the implementation of the recommendations contained in the final report of the International Committee of experts for the GERD project. The aim of this round was to examine ways to push the recommended studies in the report of the International Committee of Experts regarding the impact of the GERD on Egypt and Sudan and discuss the points of disagreement between the two consulting companies which were clarified to the three countries.

Also, this round aimed to exposing the outcome of meetings to the ministers of the three countries to review the alternatives presented by the experts of the three countries to trespass the differences and review the different scenarios to settle the crisis before submission to the Ministers of Water Resources in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to take joint decisions to resolve and start in the implementation of technical studies of the project.

Egypt rejected the implementation of the technical studies of the GERD by only one company, pointing out what was agreed during the meetings of the fifth round of the tripartite national committee in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa in April, 2015, where two companies were chosen, not one company.

On December 27-28, 2015, a meeting was held to discuss the Egyptian concerns of the GERD, while the meeting resulted in signing the Khartoum document, which is a legal obligatory document binding the three countries and it responded to all concerns raised by the three countries.

4 - 2016 rounds

On January 6, 2016 in Addis Ababa, the technical meetings launched to study the Egyptian proposal to increase water-passing holes behind GERD from 2 to 4 gates, in the presence of a consultant from the Italian company ‘Salini’.

On January 8, 2016, the public relations officer of the Ethiopian Water Ministry announced his country's rejection of the Egyptian proposal to increase the water holes in GERD, stressing that Addis Ababa conducted extensive studies on the project before it started and does not need to be redesigned to increase the holes, noting that the two current holes in the dam provides sufficient water to the two downstream states "Egypt and Sudan".

On February 16, 2016, The meeting of tripartite national committee began at the level of experts from the three countries and a meeting was held with the French companies BRL and Artelia, responsible for preparing the studies on the effects of the GERD on Egypt and Sudan, where the joint technical presentation by the French companies was finalized by the experts of the tripartite national committee of the three countries.

5 - 2017 rounds

The ministerial meeting of the Nile Basin countries Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia held in October, 2017 to discuss some inquiries about the introductory report made by a French consultation body, which is responsible for the implementation of the technical studies.

On November 11-12, 2017, the tripartite technical committee meeting on the GERD at the ministerial level was held in Cairo, in the presence of Irrigation Ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, the meeting did not reach any agreement on adoption of the introductory report on technical studies of the GERD.

6 - 2018 rounds

January 2018: Egypt proposed the participation of the World Bank as a technical party with an impartial view to decide on the differences in the work of the GERD Tripartite National Committee. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn asserted that Ethiopia rejected Egypt's request to include the World Bank in the tripartite technical committee's talks on the GERD.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry announced that an agreement has been reached, during the tripartite summit between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, on ending the technical studies of the GERD within a month.

April 2018: A tripartite meeting on the GERD, at the level of the foreign affairs and irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, was held in Khartoum. The meeting comes per the results of the Addis Ababa tripartite summit that was held on the sidelines of the African Summit last January.

May 2018: The nine-way meeting on the GERD comes close to a path for resuming technical studies. The nine-way meeting gets close to setting a path for resuming studies and new proposals to support the technical course, in addition to serious measures for boosting cooperation and confidence-building.

June 2018: President Sisi said he agreed with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad to enhance confidence and cooperation and continue efforts to overcome challenges as well as reaching a final agreement on the GERD. An agreement which could ensure Egypt’s incontrovertible water needs and rights of Nile River and also enhance the development and prosperity to the Ethiopian people, Sisi added. Abiy Ahmad said that he mulled with President Sisi means of boosting bilateral relations, asserting that the Ethiopians respect their Egyptian neighbors and brothers.

On June 24, 2018, an independent scientific research group on the GERD have begun meetings in Khartoum to discuss the options and strategies for filling the GERD’s lake. The working group included experts and academics from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. The meeting also addressed observations of Egypt and Sudan on a proposal submitted by Ethiopia at the previous Cairo meeting.

7 – 2019 rounds

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said during a discussion session of the 7th youth conference, which was held in the New Administrative Capital on July 30 and 31, 2019, that Egypt estimates the crisis, pointing to the studies conducted to calculate the amount of water that will be withheld from Egypt with the start of the operation of the GERD. President Sisi added that we must agree with our brothers in Ethiopia on the period of filling the dam reservoir, in a way that we can bear the damage, and we must estimate the amount of water that we can afford to lose, which we can agree on.

On the results of tripartite meeting among irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia held in Cairo in early October 2019 to discuss the file of the GERD, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on social media said that it has not resulted in any positive development, adding that “The Egyptian state, with all its institutions, is committed to protecting Egypt’s water rights in the River Nile. Egypt will continue to take the necessary political measures within the framework of the International Law to protect these rights. The Eternal Nile will continue to strongly stream, connecting the South and the North with the bond of history and geography”.

In the framework of the Egyptian efforts to put the international community before its responsibilities, President Sisi had presented Egypt's view on the GERD crisis to the international community during his speech before the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, stressing that "The Nile water is a matter of life and existence". He explained that Ethiopia is currently entering the phase of filling the dam unilaterally without the existence of agreements and regulatory framework for that stage with the participation of the three countries Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia is a risk indicator, which means reducing the amount of water reaching Egypt, thirsting the Egyptian citizen, destroying the agricultural area, and affecting the production of electricity.

8 - US-sponsored rounds

The Arab Republic of Egypt has welcomed the White House statement regarding the ongoing negotiations on the GERD. A White House press statement has said the United States supports Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan’s ongoing negotiations to reach a cooperative, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on filling and operating the GERD. “All Nile Basin countries have a right to economic development and prosperity,” according to the White House statement. “The Administration calls on all sides to put forth good faith efforts to reach an agreement that preserves those rights, while simultaneously respecting each other’s Nile water quotas.”

Egypt has accepted a US invitation for a meeting with Sudan and Ethiopia over a protracted Nile dam dispute. The meeting would bring together foreign ministers of the three Nile basin countries to try to break the stalemate in talks on Ethiopia's giant hydropower dam.

In November 2019, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry participated in meetings held with the foreign ministers of Sudan and Ethiopia to discuss the GERD issue. The meetings were also attended by United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin in the presence of representatives for the World Bank. Shoukry pointed out that these meetings have yielded positive results that would help fix the path of negotiations. Four urgent trilateral meetings will be held at the level of water resources ministers and with the participation of representatives from the US and World Bank to reach an agreement on filling and operating the dam within a period of two months and by January 15, 2020, Shoukry said. During the period mentioned, Shoukry added that two meetings will be held in Washington at the invitation of US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin to assess the progress of negotiations.

The US Treasury issued a joint statement on the meetings saying that if an agreement is not reached by January 15, 2020, the foreign ministers agree that Article 10 of the 2015 Declaration of Principles will be invoked. Article 10 states that “The three countries commit to settle any dispute resulting from the interpretation or application of the declaration of principles through talks or negotiations based on the good will principle. If the parties involved do not succeed in solving the dispute through talks or negotiations, they can ask for mediation or refer the matter to their heads of states or prime ministers.”

On November 15-16, 2019, a round of discussions was held in Addis Ababa for the irrigation ministers with the participation of representatives of the United States and the World Bank as observers. It was agreed to continue consultations and technical discussions on filling and operating the GERD at a meeting in Cairo on December 2 - 3, 2019.

On December 2, 2019, Egypt hosted the second round of a four-meeting series between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the GERD to complete technical discussions on outstanding issues regarding the filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam in preparation for reaching a tripartite agreement by January 15, 2020.

On December 9, 2019, ministers of foreign affairs and irrigation of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia held a meeting in Washington within the framework of the road map that was developed to follow up and evaluate the progress of the technical negotiations.

On December 21, 2019, a technical meeting for Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to negotiate the rules of filling the reservoir of the GERD kicked off in Khartoum.

According to Mohamed Abdel-Ati, Egypt’s minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Cairo has shown flexibility in the negotiations. Egypt listened closely to Ethiopian concerns and expressed willingness to reconsider certain positions, demonstrating the constructive spirit it is bringing to the process of working together with Sudan and Ethiopia. He noted that the three parties agreed that the filling and operation of the dam should be carried out in a cooperative and coordinated manner that takes into account the annual water yield of the Blue Nile.

While the Sudanese minister stressed the need to adhere to international law, especially the principle of equitable use of water without causing harm to any party, expressing his hope to make progress during this round.

The Ethiopian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation confirmed that the process of filling of the reservoir is scheduled to begin in July 2020, thus there is a need to reach an agreement among all parties concerned.

On January 8-9, 2020, Addis Ababa witnessed the fourth meeting to complete discussions regarding filling and operating the GERD. Egypt confirmed its adherence to passing 40 billion cubic meters of Blue Nile water annually, as it is the average revenue of the Blue Nile during periods of droughts and prolonged droughts, as happened during the period of drought experienced by the Nile from 1978 to 1987. The Ministry of Irrigation indicated that the Ethiopian side demanded the passage of 35 billion cubic meters annually from the Blue Nile during filling periods and during periods of drought and prolonged drought.  It should be noted that the Blue Nile represents one of the tributaries of the Abyssinian and Lakes Plateaux, and it is one of the four main tributaries that feed the Nile.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation proposed an alternative formula linking operations of GERD and the High Dam to better promote the interests of both sides. Where a matrix was designed that includes the three proposals for the three countries to bring the views of each other closer to overcome the points of disagreement.

At the end of the final round of a four-meeting series among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on controversial GERD in Addis Ababa, the three countries failed to reach an agreement on the operating rules of the dam, announced Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation in a statement.

9 – 2020 rounds

On January 10, 2020, Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed that the statement issued by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the ministerial meeting on the GERD, which was held on January 8-9, 2020 in Addis Ababa, has included many outright rejected fallacies, it also contained deliberate misinformation and distortion of facts, and provided an image that absolutely contradicts the course of the negotiations and Egypt's positions and technical proposals as well as the actual deliberations during this meeting and in the three precedent ministerial meetings which were held over the past two months to discuss the rules for the GERD filling and operation.

Egypt indicates that these four ministerial meetings did not lead to tangible progress due to Ethiopia's intransigence and its adoption of excessive positions that reveals its intention to impose a fait accompli and to extend its control over the Blue Nile in order to proceed towards the filling and operation of the GERD without the slightest consideration of the water interests of the downstream countries, Egypt in particular being the last downstream country, in contravention of Ethiopia's legal obligations under international treaties and norms, primarily the Declaration of Principles Agreement concluded on March 23, 2015, as well as the 1902 Agreement that Ethiopia concluded of its own free will as an independent state, and the 1993 Agreement in which it pledged not to harm Egypt's water interests; nevertheless, Ethiopia is seeking to control the Blue Nile, just as it does in other international rivers shared with sisterly countries.

Egypt affirms that this unfortunate Ethiopian approach was evident in the technical stances and proposals that it presented during the ministerial meetings, and which reflects Ethiopia's intention to fill the Dam’s reservoir without restrictions or applying any rules that provides genuine guarantees for the downstream countries and protects them from potential damage due to the filling process.

Moreover, Egypt clarifies that the reason for Ethiopia’s refusal to drain the natural discharge during the operation of the GERD is due to its intention to use this Dam, which only aims to generate electricity, to launch future projects and freely exploit the resources of the Blue Nile without paying attention to Egypt's water interests and rights, guaranteed by international law.

Egypt engaged in these negotiations in good faith and in a positive spirit that reflects its sincere desire to reach a just and balanced agreement in the common interests of Egypt and Ethiopia. This was reflected in the flexible and open ideas and technical models presented by Egypt during the meetings. Contrary to what the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry statement claimed, that Egypt requested to fill the GERD in a period of 12 to 21 years, Egypt did not specify a number of years for the filling of the Dam, in fact the three countries have agreed more than a year ago on filling the GERD in stages which the speed of their implementation depends on the Blue Nile annual discharge, the Egyptian proposal leads to filling the GERD in 6 or 7 years if the River’s discharge is average or above average during the filling period, in the event of a drought, the Egyptian proposal enables the GERD to generate 80% of its electricity production capacity, this means that the Ethiopian side will bear minimal burden in the case of a drought.

Contrary to the misconceptions in the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry statement regarding the definition of water deficit, Egypt proposed mechanisms and rules to adapt to the hydrological changes in the Blue Nile and to deal with drought years that may coincide with the GERD filling process, this includes slowing down the filling speed and using quantities of water stored in the Dam to limit the negative effects of the filling process during drought, and bridge the water deficit that the downstream countries may be exposed to, while preserving the GERD’s capacity of generating electricity at accelerated rates; however, Ethiopia insists that Egypt bears alone the burden of drought; this contradicts the rules of international law and the principles of justice and fairness related to international rivers.

Furthermore, Egypt expresses its astonishment that whenever it calls for the necessity of agreeing on effective steps to deal with any drought that may occur during the filling, Ethiopia declares its readiness to unilaterally fill the GERD, this has been rejected by Egypt throughout the negotiations as it constitutes an explicit violation of the 2015 Declaration of Principles Agreement and Ethiopia’s obligations under the rules of international law.

Egypt also denounces the allegations made in the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry statement claiming that Egypt seeks to monopolize the Nile waters; and points out that such empty statements and slogans - which may be issued for domestic use - does not help creating a favorable environment to achieve progress in negotiations.

Egypt will participate in the meeting convened by the US Secretary of Treasury with the Foreign and Water Ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in Washington on January 13 and 14, 2020, out of its commitment to working honestly in order to reach a fair and balanced agreement, and in the context of its efforts to preserve the unwavering interests of the Egyptian people.

On January 13-15, 2020, Ministers Sameh Shoukry of Foreign Affairs and Mohamed Abdel Ati of Water Resources and Irrigation participated in negotiations in Washington on the GERD. The meeting was attended by US treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and World Bank President David Malpass. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said Egyptian and US officials held prolonged talks during which the Egyptian side expounded its vision on regulations that should be adopted to fill and operate the dam. This meeting was followed by a meeting between the Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese ministers for foreign affairs and water. Technical talks were discussed at the ministerial level, the spokesman said.

Joint Statement of Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, the United States and the World Bank, January 15, 2020

Washington, DC – The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources and Irrigation of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and their delegations met with the Secretary of the Treasury and the President of the World Bank, participating as observers, in Washington, D.C. on January 13-15, 2020. The Ministers noted the progress achieved in the four technical meetings among the Ministers of Water Resources and their two prior meetings in Washington D.C. and the outcomes of those meetings and their joint commitment to reach a comprehensive, cooperative, adaptive, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.

Toward that end, the Ministers noted the following points, recognizing that all points are subject to final agreement:

1- The filling of the GERD will be executed in stages and will be undertaken in an adaptive and cooperative manner that takes into consideration the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the potential impact of the filling on downstream reservoirs.

2- Filling will take place during the wet season, generally from July to August, and will continue in September subject to certain conditions.

3- The initial filling stage of the GERD will provide for the rapid achievement of a level of 595 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.) and the early generation of electricity, while providing appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan in case of severe droughts during this stage.

4- The subsequent stages of filling will be done according to a mechanism to be agreed that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that addresses the filling goals of Ethiopia and provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.

5- During long term operation, the GERD will operate according to a mechanism that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.

6- An effective coordination mechanism and provisions for the settlement of disputes will be established.

The Ministers agree that there is a shared responsibility of the three countries in managing drought and prolonged drought.

The Ministers agreed to meet again in Washington, D.C. on January 28-29 to finalize a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD, and that there will be technical and legal discussions in the interim period.

The Ministers recognize the significant regional benefits that can result from concluding an agreement on the GERD with respect to transboundary cooperation, regional development and economic integration that can result from the operation of the GERD. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed the importance of transboundary cooperation in the development of the Blue Nile to improve the lives of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and their shared commitment to concluding an agreement.

Discussions of technical and legal delegations

On January 22, 2020, legal and technical delegations from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia started their consultative meeting to resume talks about rules of filling and operating the GERD. The three countries are committed to reaching a comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable agreement about how to fill and operate the dam before the Washington meeting due on January 28-29, 2020. The delegates outlined a draft of the agreement as well as followed up on negotiations that took place among the foreign and irrigation ministers of the three countries in Washington on January 13-15.

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and their delegations Had a meeting with the Secretary of the Treasury and the President of the World Bank, participating as observers in negotiations on the filling and operation of the GERD, in Washington, D.C. on January 28-31, 2020. At the conclusion of the meetings, the Ministers reached an agreement on the following issues, subject to the final signing of the comprehensive agreement:

1- a schedule for a stage-based filling plan of the GERD;

2- a mitigation mechanism for the filling of the GERD during drought, prolonged drought, and prolonged periods of dry years; and

3- a mitigation mechanism for the annual and long-term operation of the GERD in drought, prolonged drought, and prolonged periods of dry years.

They also discussed and agreed to finalize a mechanism for the annual and long-term operation of the GERD in normal hydrological conditions, a coordination mechanism, and provisions for the resolution of disputes and the sharing of information. Moreover, they also agreed to address dam safety and pending studies on the environmental and social impacts of the GERD.

The Ministers have instructed their technical and legal teams to prepare the final agreement, which shall include the agreements reached above, for a signing of the three countries by the end of February, 2020.

The Ministers recognize the significant regional benefits that will result from this agreement and from the operation of the dam with respect to transboundary cooperation, regional development and economic integration. The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of transboundary cooperation in the development of the Blue Nile to improve the lives of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.

On February 3-5, 2020, meetings of the technical and legal technical and legal committees of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia were held in Washington in order to finalize the agreement. These committees will work until February 12-13, which is the date agreed upon between the three countries in Washington to approve the final version of the agreement in preparation for signing it by the end of February.

Ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and their delegations Held a meeting with the Secretary of the Treasury and the President of the World Bank, participating as observers, to continue negotiations on the filling and operation of the GERD, in Washington, D.C. on February 12-13, 2020. The United States, with technical support from the World Bank, has agreed to facilitate the preparation of the final agreement for consideration by the Ministers and heads of state for conclusion by the end of February.

On February 27-28, 2020, a ministerial meeting among the water and foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was held in Washington to crystalize a final agreement on the rules of filling and operating the GERD built by Ethiopia on their shared Nile River. Ethiopia announced that it had asked America to postpone the last round of talks and a spokesperson for the Ethiopian Ministry of Water and Irrigation said that Ethiopia needs more time for consultation. On the other hand, the Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation emphasized that the delegations of Egypt and Sudan will participate in the Washington meeting in addition to representatives of the US government.

At the end of the meeting, Egypt has initialed an agreement drafted by the US regarding rules for filling and operating the GERD, the first of the three involved countries to do so.

In a statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that the agreement preserves Egypt’s water interests and ensures they will not be seriously harmed. Egypt is eager for Sudan and Ethiopia to follow suit in accepting this agreement and signing it themselves as soon as possible, viewing the agreement as fair and balanced and reaching the common interests of all three countries. Expressing regret over Ethiopia’s absence from the meeting during this crucial negotiation stage, Egypt praised the US administration’s role in eagerly seeking to reach a final agreement between the three nations.

The US Treasury issued a statement stressing the importance of not starting to fill the dam without concluding an agreement between three countries, stressing that the US will continue to work with Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan until they sign an accord on a giant Blue Nile hydropower dam. US is looking forward to Ethiopia finalising its national consultations “as soon as possible to provide for the signing of the agreement at the earliest possible time”, after Egypt initiated the agreement as a sign of commitment. US noted the concern of the downstream residents in Sudan and Egypt because of the incomplete work on the safe operation of the dam, and the need to implement all necessary safety measures for the dams in accordance with international standards before filling began. The US stressed that final testing and filling should not be performed without agreement and be in line with the principles set out in the Declaration of Principles agreement, particularly the principles of not causing significant harm to any downstream country. The statement stated that the US believes that the work accomplished during the past four months has resulted in an agreement that addresses all issues in a balanced and fair manner, taking into account the interests of the three countries.

On June 9, 2020, irrigation ministers from the three countries held a meeting on Tuesday via video conference in the presence of international observers, including the United States, the European Union, South Africa, and the president of the African Union. The meeting came at the invitation of Sudan, three weeks after launching its initiative get the three countries to return to the negotiating table. “It is difficult to describe the meeting as positive or as having reached any significant result. It focused on procedural issues related to the schedule of meetings, the subjects of discussions, and the role and number of observers,” a statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources read. The statement added that the meeting’s discussions reflected a trend on the Ethiopian side to want to reopen debate on all issues, including the proposals submitted by Ethiopia itself. The statement added that Ethiopia seems to want to discuss again everything that was previously negotiated in the talks that took place in Washington in February. Ethiopia also appears firm in its desire to begin filling the dam’s reservoir in July 2020, according to the statement.

Egypt emphasized it’s position, which includes:

- Requesting Ethiopia to announce that it will not take any unilateral action in filling GERD’s reservoir until negotiations are complete and an agreement is reached.

- The reference for the discussion is the February 21, 2020 document prepared by the United States and the World Bank, based on the three countries’ talks during the past several months.

- Observers to the negotiations should act as facilitators.

- The negotiation period to reach a full agreement on filling and operating the GERD will be from June 9 to June 13, 2020.

On June 11, 2020, the third meeting of irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia was held on the rules for filling and operating the GERD. During the meeting, Ethiopia presented a paper included a vision on how to fill and operate the GERD. Egypt and Sudan expressed reservations over the Ethiopian paper submitted and discussed during the third day of resumed the GERD tripartite meetings. Following the meeting, Egypt said the Ethiopian paper on filling and operating the GERD, inconsistent with the principles and rules previously agreed upon by the three countries [Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia] in the negotiations brokered by the United States and the World Bank. “It also considers to be wasting for all technical understandings reached in previous rounds of negotiations” Egypt’s government stated.

However; Egypt re-affirmed its commitment to the document brokered by the United States and the World Bank on the GERD on February 21st, in Washington, as “an equitable and balanced agreement, enables Ethiopia to achieve its development goals while preserving the rights of Egypt and Sudan”

Egypt stressed the need for Ethiopia to review its position that undermine the possibility of reaching an agreement. It was also noted that Ethiopia should refrain from taking any ‘unilateral measures’ in violation of its legal obligations, especially the provisions of the Declaration of Principles Agreement concluded in 2015.

Egypt also stressed the importance of Ethiopia to be negotiating with “good intentions”, similar to the approach that Egypt has taken since the negotiations began in order to sign a fair agreement that takes into account the interests of all three countries.

The flaws of the last Ethiopian proposal

The spokesperson for the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation said that while Egypt showed more flexibility during the talks and accepted a compromise paper prepared by the brotherly Republic of Sudan, which would be a basis for negotiations between the three countries, Ethiopia presented, during the ministerial meeting, a disturbing proposal that includes its vision of the rules for filling and operating the GERD.

The Irrigation Ministry spokesperson pointed out that the Ethiopian proposal includes many flaws as follows:

First: At a time when Egypt and Sudan are seeking to reach a binding legal document that regulates the filling and operation of the GERD and preserves the rights of the three countries, Ethiopia hopes that a non-binding paper will be signed according to which the downstream country will give up their water rights and recognize Ethiopia’s unconditional right to use unilaterally the water of the Blue Nile, with fullness and operation of the GERD according to its individual vision.

Second: The Ethiopian proposal aims to waste all the agreements and understandings reached by the three countries during the negotiations spanning nearly a full decade, including the agreements reached in the recent rounds of negotiations with the participation of the United States and the World Bank.

Third: The Ethiopian paper does not provide any guarantees that secure the downstream country during periods of prolonged drought and does not provide any protection for them from the effects and grave damages that may result from filling and operating the GERD.

Fourth: The Ethiopian paper stipulates Ethiopia’s absolute right to change and amend the rules for filling and operating the GERD unilaterally in light of the rates of electricity generation from the dam and to meet its water needs, without even paying attention to the interests of the downstream countries or taking them into consideration.

Egypt refers the GERD crisis to the UN Security Council

On January 19, 2020, Egypt announced that it has filed a request to the UN Security Council, asking it to intervene in negotiations over the GERD after recent negotiations among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have reached a deadlock. In its request, Cairo asked the Security Council to “affirm the importance of the three countries resuming negotiations in good faith…in order to reach a fair and balanced solution to the GERD issue”. Egypt submitted the request depending on Article 35 of the United Nations Charter, which grants both member and non-member states the power to bring any dispute, or any situation that is likely to endanger international peace and security, to the attention of the Security Council.

The move comes after recent negotiations between the three countries over the dam have stalled due to Addis Ababa's negative attitudes and its insistence on proceeding with filling the dam unilaterally, in violation of the Declaration of Principles (DoP) signed by the three countries in Sudan on March 23, 2015. Egypt has always been keen to come up with an agreement that achieves the three countries' interests, without causing serious harm to any of them. Therefore, Egypt called on the Security Council to intervene and assume its responsibilities for averting any form of tension and preserving international peace and security.

On June 23, 2020, an extraordinary session of the Arab League Council meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers was held, via video conference, to discuss the file of the GERD. In his speech during the meeting, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry reviewed the outcome of the last round of the Sudan-hosted talks on the GERD, which saw an intransigent position of Ethiopia regarding several legal and technical points, as well as its insistence on starting to fill the dam's reservoir without reaching an agreement. Shoukry touched on a step taken by Egypt to ask the UN Security Council to intervene to prevent Ethiopia from starting to fill its dam or taking any unilateral action on that score. Filling the dam without reaching an agreement with Egypt and Sudan constitutes a clear violation of Ethiopia's international legal obligations, as well as the Declaration of Principles signed in 2015, which obliges Ethiopia not to cause any serious harm to the interests of the two downstream countries, Shoukry said. Shoukry voiced Egypt's appeal to all Arab countries to support it in the GERD file, which he said affects more than 150 million people living on the banks of the River Nile in both Egypt and Sudan. The foreign minister has appealed to all sisterly Arab states to support its moves to resume talks on the GERD in good faith.

On June 26, 2020, a virtual mini-summit grouping member states of the Bureau of the African Union Heads of State and Government was held to discuss the GERD file. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa chaired the meeting that was also attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdouk.

Egypt is ready to resume negotiations with Sudan and Ethiopia to reach a fair and balanced agreement on filling and operating the GERD, President Sisi said. To ensure successful negotiations, all parties shall pledge not to make any unilateral decisions, as well as halt the dam's filling till reaching an agreement preserving the three countries' interests, Sisi added.

At the end of the summit, leaders of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia agreed to form an African Union-sponsored committee grouping legal and technical experts from the three countries to draft a final binding deal on the Ethiopian dam and avoid any unilateral action including the dam's filling before finalizing an agreement.

On June 29, 2020, the United Nations Security Council held an open session on the GERD issue. During the session, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stressed that filling and operating the Ethiopian dam unilaterally and without reaching an agreement protecting the rights of downstream countries would deepen tension and trigger conflicts that would consequently jeopardize regional stability.

In July 2020 a new round of the GERD negotiations was held, which included 11 videoconference sessions, under the auspices of the African Union and in the presence of international observers. The three countries "Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan" presented the final report to South Africa, the 2020 head of the African Union (AU). A mini-African summit is scheduled to be held on July 21, 2020 to discuss the GERD file.

On July 21, 2020, a virtual mini-summit hosted by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was held to discuss the outcome of the latest technical and legal meetings on the GERD. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed to continue negotiations on the disputed GERD, while giving priority to crystallizing a binding agreement on the rules regulating the filling and operation of the dam. 

On July 27, 2020, the first meeting of the second round of talks on the GERD was held under the patronage of the African Union. Observers from the US and the European Union attended the meeting alongside experts from the African Union Commission. The two downstream counties expressed concern over Ethiopia’s unilateral filling of the dam, which has raised many questions about the current negotiations and chances of reaching a fair agreement to fill and operate the dam. The meeting concluded that Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have to be offered a chance to conduct internal consultations in light of the recent developments; with the aim of finding solutions to outstanding points at the technical and legal levels. The ministers agreed on re-holding a meeting next Monday, August 3.

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