CAIRO: A joint six-party meeting was held on Sunday between the ministers of water resources and irrigation and the ministers of foreign affairs from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia — a day before the resumption of the scheduled Renaissance Dam negotiations.
Sudanese and Egyptian sources had previously announced that a joint six-party meeting would be held on Sunday to discuss the points of conflict in the agreement to fill the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The meeting was held under the auspices of the UN and in the presence of African Union (AU) representatives, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
“At the invitation of the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Ethiopian, Egyptian and Sudanese Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Ministers of Water and Irrigation will meet at 4 p.m. Addis Ababa time to discuss the Renaissance Dam. The African Union delegate and the South African Foreign Minister will also attend,” said Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Seleshi Bekele in a tweet.
The AU, experts and observers participated in the ministerial meeting via video conference.
Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly stressed, during a meeting with his Sudanese counterpart, Abdulla Hamdok, on Saturday in Khartoum, the need to negotiate a binding agreement on filling and operating the dam in a way that preserves the rights and interests of the three countries. This would be in accordance with the agreement of the Declaration of Principles in Khartoum from 2015 and the principle of fair and equitable water use.
The two sides renewed their commitment to negotiations, seeing it as the best way to achieve the interests of the peoples of the region.
They expressed their aspirations for the success of the negotiations and stressed the need not to take any unilateral measures before reaching an agreement satisfactory to the three parties.
On Monday, the ministers of water resources and irrigation in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia will resume the Renaissance Dam meetings, after they were suspended for more than a week at the request of Egypt and Sudan over Ethiopia's agenda for negotiation.
The Ethiopian minister of water had addressed his counterparts in Egypt and Sudan with a draft containing the principles of the first filling of the Renaissance dam. It did not contain any operating rules, an indication of the binding nature of the final agreement, or even a mandatory formula for resolving disputes that may arise in the future.
A government source told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk that contacts took place over the past week to determine a specific agenda for the meetings, which are scheduled to last two weeks. He added that Egypt refused to limit negotiations to the process of the first filling of the Renaissance dam.
“Cairo adheres to reaching a binding agreement regarding the filling and continuous operation processes of the dam, that includes principles for dealing with short and long periods of drought, as well as a decisive mechanism for resolving disputes that may arise in the future. These are all reasons that prompted Egypt to reject the last Ethiopian draft that is limited to only the first filling,” he said.
Egypt expressed its willingness to resume negotiations on the basis of the outcomes of the African mini-summit and the meeting of irrigation ministers on Aug. 3, which provides a pathway for reaching a legally binding agreement on filling and operating the Renaissance Dam.
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have been involved in the dam talks since 2011, but are yet to reach an agreement due to tensions between Addis Ababa on one hand and Cairo and Khartoum on the other.