Egypt Cautiously Optimistic about Preliminary Deal on Renaissance Dam
A preliminary deal aimed at solving the Renaissance Dam crisis between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was met in Cairo on Thursday with “cautious optimism”.
“There are several problems that the three countries failed to solve, mainly the procedures and rules for operating the dam,” former Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Nasr Eddin Allam told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Following lengthy talks held in Washington this week, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan said they reached a preliminary agreement aimed at clearing the way for the filling and operation of Ethiopia’s $5 billion dam project on the Nile River.
On Wednesday, the foreign and water ministers of the three countries concluded three days of meetings in Washington with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and World Bank President David Malpass.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that the US role has helped the three countries find common ground on the general framework of the Renaissance Dam deal.
“We are cautiously optimistic that we are reaching a critical point in the negotiations,” Shoukry said.
The countries announced a plan to meet again in Washington on Jan. 28-29 with the goal of reaching a final agreement on the dam's filling and operation.
"The ministers agree that there is a shared responsibility of the three countries in managing drought and prolonged drought," the officials said in their joint statement.
The statement added that these preliminary decisions on the dam's operation would not become final until the countries agree on all points in a final deal.
However, observers told Asharq Al-Awsat that there were still technical and legal difficulties, including an agreement on the entire stages of filling, the rules of operation, drought-related standards, and Egypt’s historic share in the Nile River.
Four previous rounds of the tripartite meetings held between the water ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, Cairo and Khartoum, have failed to reach a solution.
The three countries aim to revive Article No. 10 of the Declaration of Principles, which stipulates that if the three countries could not find a solution to these differences, they have to ask for mediation.
Ethiopia started building the dam in 2011 on the Blue Nile to generate electricity. Egypt fears that the dam would cause harm to its water share in the Nile.