Leaders from Ethiopia and Egypt are expected to meet in New York during the middle of this month to work on making their relationship stronger. Though both are linked by the Abay (Nile) River flowing from Ethiopia to the northern African country, there has been some controversy since the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) commenced in the Benishangul Gumuz Regional State in 2011. However since the new president of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi came to power, relations have thawed between the two countries. Talks between the Egyptian President and Prime Minster Hailemariam Dessalegn at Malabo, Equatorial Guinea during a recent AU summit transformed the relationship and negotiations reconvened between the downstream countries (Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt) about the GERD.
Experts stated that there was a general sense of understanding during talks this week between the three ministers of water representing each nation. Previously talks were halted when Egypt walked out at the beginning of the year. They also pointed to the visit of Egypt’s Foreign Minister (FM) Sameh Shoukry to Addis Ababa as another hopeful sign.
During his visit late this week the FM met with his counterpart Tedros Adhanom (PhD) and the PM. The two countries then agreed to work together in various endeavors.
The visit of the FM mainly focused on discussions about the GERD project and other cooperation, according to the information from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).
Hailemariam promised that the river will never harm Egypt, and the two nations should work together to expand cooperation not only with the development at the river but in other sectors as well.
The leaders of the two nations (Hailemariam and al-Sisi) also plan to meet again in New York during the UN general assembly that will take place in the middle of this month. During the upcoming meeting the two heads are expected to talk more about ways they can cooperate.
During the Egyptian FM visit here Dr Tedros stated that the river Nile should be a source of cooperation and not conflict. He said that the two countries must boost their relations. The Ethiopian side has always held the view that the Abay River issue must be one of mutual benefit that serves many people. To accomplish this, the Nile basin countries are working on ways of more cooperation and to develop in ways where everybody wins.
The GERD that is being constructed on the Abay River is expected to be completed in 2017, while the project will start the first commissioning by the end of 2015. The project that will generate 6,000mw of energy is also expected to be exported to other African countries including the two downstream countries Sudan and Egypt.
Ethiopia has been lobbying for the past three years aggressively saying that the project will not cause significant harm for the downstream countries.
Ethiopia contributes about 86 percent of the Nile River.
The tripartite ministerial meeting held early last week to discuss the GERD has agreed to undertake additional studies on the dam within six months starting from September 1.
The three countries, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt who formed a tripartite forum to discuss the project until it was halted late last year, resumed their discussions on August 25 and 26 at Khartoum, Sudan.
After these talks began, reports indicated that the three countries agreed to establish a committee to conduct two further studies recommended by the International Panel of Experts (IPoE).
The joint statement indicated that a proposed Tripartite National Committee (TNC) comprising four experts from each country will conduct the studies recommended by the IPoE: the studies will cover Water Resources/Hydropower System Simulation Model and a Trans-boundary Environmental and Socio-Economic Impact Assessment.
The TNC will conclude its work within six months and the studies will be implemented according to an agreed timetable by international consultancy firm(s) according to the “Draft Scope of Work” presented in the IPoE final report.
The Ministers also agreed on the nomination of international experts who would be able to provide technical opinions in case there are disagreements among the Ministers over the outcome of the two studies.
During the meeting, technical teams from Egypt and Ethiopia also met and the Ethiopian team gave updates about the Dam design to satisfy downstream countries’ concerns. The technical teams also agreed to continue consultations on relevant technical matters in the future.