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After a closed door meeting that lasted nearly 15 hours the Tripartite High Level Ministerial meeting of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan agreed on several ongoing operations along the eastern Nile basin.
Chief diplomats, water ministers and security leaders of the three countries met at the Inter Continental Bistro Hotel from noon on Tuesday May 15 until three in the morning of May 16 to finish negotiating.
Since the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) at Tiqur Abay (Blue Nile) began in 2011, officials from the three countries have held several meetings. However, this is only the second one held at such a high level. The first was in Khartoum, Sudan in early April.
According a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia (MoFA), one crucial deal the three countries agreed to was to form a joint infrastructure fund.
In regards to the infrastructure fund high level high officials from the three countries agreed to work out the most suitable modality to establish the Fund.
In 2016 when they met at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt leaders of the three countries agreed to establish an infrastructure fund to provide for joint infrastructure and development proposals in their respective nations.
According the organization’s statement the MoFA Tripartite High Level Ministerial Meeting accomplished successful agreements. The countries agreed to establish an independent, national, scientific study group to analyze the filling of GERD. They also agreed to present queries and observations to the consultancy.
This was seen as a good move for the region because it helps establish trust based on cooperation among the affected countries.
Experts, who declined to be mentioned, stated that the outcome of the latest meeting indicated that the dialogue between the three countries became about filling the dam with water as opposed to the construction project.
“During the filling, countries including Ethiopia, took into consideration the mutual benefits of the region,” one expert said. Meles Alem, Spokesperson of MoFA, told Capital that the three countries been agreed to form a National Independent Scientific Research Study Group made up of five experts from the three countries to look at the water filling process.
The countries will establish a National Independent Scientific Research Study Group. The mandate of the group is to discuss ways to enhance the level of understanding and cooperation among the three countries with regard to GERD, including discussing and developing various scenarios related to the filling and operation rules in accordance with the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization of shared water resources while taking all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of significant harm.
The group is expected to hold nine meetings and submit the outcome of its deliberations within three months for consideration of the water ministers who will report to the high level ministerial body.
“The agreed minutes reached last night (early morning of May 16) are an example of compromise between countries that are seeking joint solutions for common challenges,” Ana Cascão, independent researcher working on Nile hydro politics, told Capital via email, “Similar to previous Nile agreements, it includes ambiguous clauses- which hopefully will turn out to be an example of constructive ambiguity and not the opposite,” Ana added.
Meles, who is delighted by the outcome of the closed door meeting, said that Ethiopia has insisted the downstream countries undertake the water filling study by scientists and experts comprised from the three countries as opposed to a third party. “Our proposal has been accepted by both countries,” he added.
In its statement MoFA said that the agreements reached during the second Tripartite High Level Ministerial Meeting is a step forward for Ethiopia.
The independent researcher working on Nile hydro politics said that if it helps to speed up decisions on the most urgent issue – alternative scenarios for the GERD filling – then it is a good outcome.
“Time is not on the side of any of the parties, therefore mutual trust must take the front seat – now, and not later,” she told Capital.
According to the statement of Egyptian MoFA, a delegation led by Sameh Shoukry, minister of MoFA, met with PM Abiy Ahmed (PhD) on Tuesday morning before they went to Tripartite High Level Ministerial Meeting. MoFA of Egypt stated that the Egyptian delegation formally invited Abiy to visit Cairo as soon as possible.
The next meeting shall take place in Cairo early July.