Nile Water Tripartite Talks Kicked off in Khartoum

The opening session of the Nile water tripartite talks has just kicked off in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, headed by the water ministers of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

The tripartite talks will take place on 25.26 August, revolving around Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, a $4.2 billion hydro-electric dam currently under construction on the Blue Nile, one of the main tributaries of the Nile.

The meeting is considered a sign of progress after a series of talks last year reached a stalemate.

The project has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government since May 2013, when images of the dam’s construction stirred public anxiety about the possible effect on Egypt’s potable water supply.

Ethiopia asserts that Egypt’s water share will not be negatively affected by the successful completion of the project. Egyptian officials have repeatedly stressed concerns about the dam’s impact on the country’s water supply.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry previously said that a June meeting between President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his Ethiopian counterpart in Malabo had contributed to opening new channels in the relationship between the two states.

The last round of tripartite talks was held last January but they ended without reaching an agreement. These were preceded by tripartite talks in November and December of last year, but these also failed.

In July, Egyptian authorities officially asked for the resumption of the tripartite talks and Ethiopia agreed to the resumption of negotiations.

On 26 June, Egypt and Ethiopia agreed to form a joint committee to streamline discussions on the Ethiopian dam project. The agreement outlined seven steps for the continuing construction of the dam. The talks will resume on the basis of these seven points.

The agreement was formulated by the foreign ministers, while directly overseen and endorsed by the Egyptian president and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Both nations hailed it as a “new chapter in relations between Egypt and Ethiopia… based on openness and mutual understanding and cooperation”.

In 2013, while serving as minister of defence, Sisi rejected the idea of using military force to resolve water issues. During a meeting with Adhanom in June, the Egyptian president said Egypt understands Ethiopia’s development needs but added that this must go hand-in-hand with Ethiopian understanding of Egypt’s water needs, and that Egypt has no alternatives to the Nile for its growing water needs.

In February, bilateral talks between Egypt and Ethiopia in February ended after failure to resolve key points of debate between the two countries.

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