16 July 2018 08:24 PM

Egyptian-Ethiopian negotiations on Renaissance Dam

Monday، 26 March 2018 12:00 AM

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

The report of this committee was issued and contained 4 reservations concerning the safety of the dam and the social and economic impacts on the poor groups living in the dam's construction areas, and reservations related to its impact on the water resources of the two downstream countries and the lack of water flow. These issues require further detailed studies by the Ethiopian government to prevent the negative effects of the dam.

Egypt's management of Renaissance Dam following June 30 revolution:

Following June 30 revolution, Egypt took the negotiating option in dealing with the crisis of Renaissance Dam, based on a set of governing rules, namely, the desire to 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 and  highlight the  "all win" principle in the joint negotiations between the three countries. And  at the same time 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 Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Malabo Declaration

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 Renaissance Dam 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 Renaissance Dam 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.

The main importance of this joint statement is the establishment of mutual understanding, guaranteeing that Ethiopia can achieve its desired development while at the same time lifting or mitigating the damages affecting Egypt to be acceptable to some extent and  maintain cooperation for the benefit of the peoples of the Nile Basin.

This statement is considered   balanced because its wording  achieves balance in between  the visions of Egypt and Ethiopia, as well as the internal and external political stances of each country. However, there are some reservations regarding the Egypt, as Ethiopia does not recognize the current Egyptian quota (5.55 billion cubic meters), claiming it is not a part in the 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan, which approved these quotas. Therefore, the word "water uses" was used instead in the article related to  "harmless". However, it was also remarkable not to refer to (quantities of current aquatic uses).

The fourth meeting at the level of Irrigation Ministers (August, 2014)

The fourth meeting of the irrigation ministers in the three countries convened in Khartoum in August, 2014 after eight months of interruption, and a mechanism to implement the recommendations of the International Committee of Experts on the Renaissance Dam 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.

First round (September 20, 2014 - Addis Ababa)

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.

Round of (October 16, 2014 - Cairo)

The selection rules of the consultants' offices for technical studies have been announced, where seven international consulting companies have been agreed upon and one of them has been selected for implementation.

Round of (March 5, 2015 - Khartoum)

The aim of this round was to evaluate the technical and financial offers submitted by 4 international companies to carry out the technical studies required for the Dam, where it was agreed on the document of principles among three countries.

Round of (March 23, 2015 - Khartoum)

The leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have signed in this round a declaration of principles on the Renaissance Dam, including 10 basic principles.

Full text of 'Declaration of Principles' signed by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia

Round of (July 22, 2015 - Khartoum)

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 Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and set the date of August 12, 2015 to receive the revised technical offer.

The ninth round of the National Committee of Renaissance Dam

The ninth round of talks by the National Committee of Ethiopian Renaissance Dam took place on November 7-8, 2015 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 Renaissance Dam 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 Ethiopian Renaissance Dam 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.

Egyptian position during ninth round

Egypt rejected the implementation of the technical studies of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam 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.

In March 2015, the agreement on principles signed by the leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia was adopted as an important feature of cooperation and confidence building among the three countries. The Declaration of Principles depends on the outputs of the technical studies of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, to be prepared by the tripartite national committee, pointing out that Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are responsible for speeding up the current negotiations to implement what has been agreed upon between them.

The unity of purpose and destiny between the countries of the Eastern Nile Basin "Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia", is a focus of the discussions  based on mutual benefit and work to achieve the interest of all.

Egypt adheres to the acquired and historical right of its people in the Nile River, while at the same time continue supporting various aspects of development in the Nile Basin region.

Egypt Urges all parties to realize the prospects of their leadership and peoples giving an example to the world that water is a catalyst for cooperation and building civilizations not a source of conflict and calling for a model for the issues related to Transboundary Rivers.

10th round of the Tripartite National Committee (December 11-28, 2015 - Khartoum)

During the ninth round of the tripartite national committee, Egypt requested the convening of a six-member meeting of ministers of foreign affairs and irrigation in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in order to develop a technical road map that would take into account the Egyptian concerns represented in accelerating the construction of the Renaissance Dam, slow down of the implementation of the technical path agreed upon  at the Khartoum meeting in August, 2014,to  activate the terms of the agreement of principles signed between the leaders of the three countries in March, 2015 and reform the technical course of the Renaissance Dam negotiations and accelerate the implementation of the hydrological, environmental, social and economic studies.

First meeting

Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Irrigation met on December 11-12, 2015, but no  agreement  was reached on the Renaissance Dam and it was agreed to hold a new meeting on December 27-28, 2015 in Khartoum and the National Technical Committee was directed to work out to solve the problem of the technical studies to be presentated at the second meeting.

Second meeting

The second meeting was held on December 27-28, 2015 to discuss the Egyptian concerns of the Renaissance Dam, 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.
Full text of Khartoum document

- It was agreed to expedite the implementation of these studies, related to the overall work in the Dam, as well as it was agreed to continue the confidence-building procedures among three countries and Ethiopia’s commitment as the owner of the dam, as announced by the Declaration of Principles signed by the leaders of the three countries, and a timetable for the work of the tripartite technical committee was laid down binding for all parties.

- It was agreed on a road map for the next phase to accelerate the completion of the technical studies, while the signing of the consultancy contract was defined  on February 1, 2016 in Khartoum, in the presence of the ministers of the three countries within a period not exceeding 8 months.

- The ministers agreed to hold a new round of talks in the first week of February 2016, in the presence of the ministers of foreign affairs and irrigation, with the aim of completing confidence-building among the three countries, inviting parliamentarians, media men and popular diplomats to inspect the dam site in the framework of confidence-building.

- It was agreed to hold a meeting at the technical level to study some Egyptian proposals related to technical matters of the dam. The meeting was held on January 3-4, 2016 in Addis Ababa.

Technical meetings to increase water-passing holes behind Renaissance Dam

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

The Renaissance Dam design includes two water-passing holes under the dam and four holes to generate electricity at the level of the body of the dam, while the Egyptian proposal includes increasing the number of water-passing holes behind the dam to become four holes instead of two to ensure continuous water flow during periods of low levels of the Nile River in the direction of Sudan and Egypt.This comes after discussing the Egyptian and Ethiopian technical studies to finalize  a report, to be  submitted to the six-member committee.

Ethiopia's position on the Egyptian proposal to increase water holes in the Renaissance Dam

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 Renaissance Dam, 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".

He added that the Ethiopian technical team presented to Egypt a clear technical report to respond to all the technical issues raised by the Egyptians and explained the Ethiopian technical vision on the adequacy of the two holes in design of the dam to pass sufficient water to Egypt and Sudan. Sudan  in its turn expressed its satisfaction with the current design of the dam without the technical conviction of the Egyptian proposal to increase the number of holes in the dam.

Meeting of tripartite national committee (February 7-11, 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 Ethiopian Renaissance Dam 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.

The final observations of the consultant were taken into consideration when conducting studies, and this confirms the adherence of the office with the conditions of reference to the requirements and details of the studies required to be implemented and previously adopted by the three countries.

This comes in addition to the final technical presentation to be committed with during  the studies of the impact of the dam on the flow of water and electric power generated from the dams, along the Nile in Egypt and Sudan and the impact of the dam on the environmental, economic and social levels of the two countries.

It was also decided during the meeting that funding of technical studies related to the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be  divided equally in  between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, amounting to about 4.5 million Euros, but after  the delegations and experts of the three countries negotiating  with the two consultants offices the financial  value  and agreeing  upon a final price.

At the conclusion of the meetings in Khartoum, it was decided to postpone the signing of the studies contract on the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with the French consultation offices because of the need of the tripartite technical delegations of the three countries to return to the their government for further consultation on the wording of the contract to comply with the legal requirements of each country.

16th round of tripartite technical committee on the Renaissance Dam (October, 2017)

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.

The 16th round of tripartite technical committee of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam held four meetings. In addition to two meetings for ministers to discuss the observations of the countries on the introductory report, and it was agreed to hold a meeting at the ministerial level to complete the discussion of the main points of disagreement and reach consensus on them.

17th meeting of the Tripartite Committee on the Renaissance Dam (November, 2017)

Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aati said the tripartite technical committee meeting on the Renaissance Dam at the ministerial level, which was held on November 11-12, 2017 in Cairo, in the presence of Irrigation Ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, did not reach any agreement on adoption of the introductory report on technical studies of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Abdel Aati expressed Egypt's concern over the future of talks with Sudan and Ethiopia after they rejected the introductory report.

On Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said Egypt considers the Nile water a matter of life or death.

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 Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Tripartite National Committee. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said that 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 Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

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 Grand Renaissance Dam within a month. In press statements, Shoukry said there is not going to be any mediator in these studies for the time being. Shoukry reiterated Egypt’s commitment to fully implementing the Declaration of Principles signed in 2015 by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam.

April 2018: A tripartite meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (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 Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (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. The meeting, held in Addis Ababa, comprises the ministers of foreign affairs and irrigation in addition to the heads of intelligence services in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

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 Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. 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.

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