After a heated week that witnessed an escalation between Egypt and Ethiopia, an independent scientific group from both countries as well as Sudan will start meeting on Monday in Khartoum hoping to find a consensual way out of the dispute over filling and operating Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The spokesman of Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources, Mohamed al-Sibai told Asharq Al-Awsat that the scientific committee is made up of five specialized experts from the three countries.
The meeting will be crucial in discussing each country’s proposals on the rules of filling and operating the dam. It will be followed by a meeting of Irrigation Ministers of the three countries on October 4 and 5 to approve the topics to be agreed upon.
The Khartoum meeting comes after the failure of the last round of negotiations, held in Cairo, which included the countries’ Irrigation Ministers. The meeting did not address the technical aspects and was limited to procedural details without discussing substantive issues.
Ethiopia refuses to discuss the offer that Egypt has already submitted to the two countries.
Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have been negotiating for nearly eight years, without reaching any result.
Egypt fears that the dam will damage its limited share of the Nile water, about 55.5 billion cubic meters, which the country needs for more than 90 percent for its supply of drinking water, irrigation for agriculture, and industry.
Over the past few days, Egypt and Ethiopia have sought to convince the international community of the validity of their respective positions and blamed the failure of negotiations on the other’s intransigence.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, during his UN General Assembly address in New York, called for international intervention in the negotiations over Ethiopia’s Great Renaissance Dam.
Sisi said the international community should play a “constructive role” in urging all parties to be flexible in the negotiations over the dam, in order to reach an agreement that achieves a common interest for all.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry held extensive meetings over the month with European, Arab, and African ministers in Cairo to brief them on the recent developments of the negotiations.
The Ministry noted that the Egyptian proposal for filling and operating the GERD is fair, balanced, and enables Ethiopia to achieve the purpose of the Renaissance Dam, which is to generate electricity.
The proposal further noted that the operation of the Dam should be done without harming the water interests of the downstream countries, especially Egypt, which depends completely on the Nile to meet its water needs.
Speaking at the 74th UN General Assembly, Ethiopia’s president Sahle-Work Zewde responded to Egypt’s call for international intervention in the ongoing Nile dam dispute.
The President noted that some 65 million Ethiopians do not have access to electricity, cautioning that the River Nile should not be an object of competition and mistrust, adding the dam project offered a unique opportunity for all the countries along the river to co-operate to share the waters.
In 2011, Addis Ababa announced the construction of the $4 billion dam to be the centerpiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, generating more than 6,000 megawatts.