Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia return to talks over disputed dam

Three key Nile basin countries will continue on Saturday their latest round of talks to resolve a years-long dispute over the operation and filling of Ethiopia’s giant hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 July 2020

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia return to talks over disputed dam

  • The Egyptian irrigation ministry said “fundamental technical and legal differences” remained unsolved
  • Sticking points in the talks include how much water Ethiopia will release downstream from the dam if a multiyear drought occurs

CAIRO: Three key Nile basin countries will continue on Saturday their latest round of talks to resolve a years-long dispute over the operation and filling of Ethiopia’s giant hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, Egypt’s irrigation ministry said.
Officials from Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia resumed their negotiations through video conference Friday, aiming to bridge the gaps and finalize a deal on the contentious mega-project within two to three weeks, Sudan’s irrigation ministry said.
The current round of talks came after negotiations last month failed to produce a deal, prompting Egypt and Sudan to appeal to the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the dispute.
The Egyptian irrigation ministry said “fundamental technical and legal differences” remained unsolved, and that they would resume their meetings Saturday.
Sticking points in the talks have been how much water Ethiopia will release downstream from the dam if a multiyear drought occurs and how Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan will resolve any future disagreements.
Egypt and Sudan agreed late in June to return to the talks after they said Ethiopia would refrain from filling the dam until the three countries reached a deal.
The Ethiopian prime minister’s office said the filling has been scheduled to begin within the next two weeks, and during that period, the three countries would work to reach an agreement “on a few pending issues.”
The talks are backed by the African Union. The 15-member Security Council expressed support for the AU action in reviving talks.
Egypt, which relies on the Nile for more than 90% of its water supplies and already faces high water stress, fears a devastating impact on its booming population of 100 million.
Ethiopia has hinged its development ambitions on the colossal dam, describing it as a crucial lifeline to bring millions out of poverty.
Sudan meanwhile stands to benefit from Ethiopia’s dam, including having access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding, but it has raised fears over the operation and safety of the Ethiopian project and says it could endanger its own dams.


European Parliament resolution urges sanctions on Turkey 

Updated 27 November 2020

European Parliament resolution urges sanctions on Turkey 

  • MEPs found that Turkey’s decision to partially reopen Varosha weakened prospects of a solution to the conflict
  • Ankara’s move has been criticized by the US, Greece as well as Greek Cypriots

ANKARA: The European Parliament has called for sanctions on Turkey following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s controversial visit to Northern Cyprus on Nov. 15.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), agreeing on a resolution in support of Cyprus, urged EU leaders to “take action and impose tough sanctions in response to Turkey’s illegal actions.”
The parliament’s non-binding resolution on Nov. 26 emphasized that Turkey’s gas exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean were illegal. EU leaders are due to meet in Brussels between Dec. 10-11.
MEPs also found that Turkey’s decision to partially reopen the fenced-off suburb of Varosha, in the city of Famagusta, weakened prospects of a far-reaching solution to the decades-long Cypriot conflict.
The Turkish army fenced off Varosha in 1974 after its military intervention, while Greek Cypriots who fled from the resort town could not return to their homes.
“MEPs call on Turkey to transfer Varosha to its lawful inhabitants under the temporary administration of the UN (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984) and to refrain from any actions that alter the demographic balance on the island through a policy of illegal settlement,” the resolution said.
Ankara’s move has been criticized by the US, Greece as well as Greek Cypriots.
The resolution was denounced by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, which criticized the European Parliament for “being prejudiced and disconnected from the realities” on Cyprus. 
During the EU summit some sanctions, on sectors such as shipping, energy and banking, are expected to be adopted, depending on Germany’s mediation efforts as the current holder of the EU’s six-month presidency.
Laura Batalla Adam, a political analyst and the secretary general of the EU-Turkey Forum, said that even if EU leaders were divided, the possibility of sanctions remained on the table.
“The decision to reopen Varosha just adds to an already extremely tense situation between Turkey and the EU,” she told Arab News. “The next days are going to be decisive as to what kind of sanctions could be imposed, depending on Ankara’s moves in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
According to Batalla Adam, a moratorium on drilling activities until the two sides can enter into negotiations to settle their dispute would be a way to ease tensions and start working on a more positive agenda.
Turkey will continue its seismic studies near Greek islands in the eastern Mediterranean until Nov. 29 with its Oruc Reis research vessel.
Ankara pulled the vessel back in September to allow more room for diplomacy and negotiations with Greece, but sent it back to the disputed area, provoking a harsh reaction from EU members Cyprus, Greece, Germany and France.