Egypt supports Sudan's international arbitration proposal in dam dispute with Ethiopia

Egypt wants to develop negotiating mechanism to reach a “legally binding agreement” as soon as possible

Egypt said on Wednesday it endorsed a Sudanese proposal to internationalise arbitration in a years-long dispute with Ethiopia over a huge dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said Cairo backed the formation of an international quartet – the US, the EU, the UN and the African Union – to help to reach a deal on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam.

The dispute centres on how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the three countries would settle any future disputes. Egypt and Sudan also want a legally binding agreement to control the dam’s filling and operation, while Ethiopia insists on guidelines only.

Mr Shukry said Egypt wants to develop the negotiating mechanism to reach a “legally binding agreement at the earliest possible opportunity”.

He announced Egypt’s position during a meeting on Wednesday in Cairo with Alphonse Ntumba Luaba, co-ordinator of the unit in charge of Democratic Republic of the Congo’s current leadership of the African Union.

There were no immediate comments from Washington, Brussels, or the UN.

Sudan announced its proposal this year after AU-led talks failed to achieve progress. Since then, Khartoum has become increasingly vocal against Ethiopia’s plans to start the second filling during the next rainy season.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said this month that the dam threatens at least 20 million Sudanese, about half the country’s population.

Sudan wants Ethiopia to co-ordinate and share data on the dam’s operation to avoid flooding and protect its own power-generating dams on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile River. The Blue Nile meets the White Nile in central Sudan, from where the Nile winds north through Egypt and flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

There was no comment from Ethiopia, which left a US-led attempt to mediate the dispute, alleging bias. The administration of former president Donald Trump last year sanctioned Ethiopia over the dam’s first filling before reaching a deal with Egypt and Sudan.

On Friday, President Joe Biden’s administration said it had de-linked the sanctions from the dam dispute.

About 85 per cent of the Nile’s flow originates from Ethiopia. Officials hope the dam, now more than three-quarters complete, will reach full power-generating capacity in 2023, helping to pull millions of its people out of poverty.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with more than 100 million people, called the dam an existential threat and worries that it will reduce its share of the Nile's waters. The country relies almost entirely on the Nile to supply water for agriculture and its people.

Updated: February 25, 2021 06:35 PM

SHARE

Editor's Picks
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one