Washington Discussion : Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan reached agreement

  • Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have now agreed to continue discussion and reach final agreement on the disputes regarding the filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam by January 15 or invoke article 10 of the Deceleration of Principle Agreement
  • The United States and The World Bank will take part in the discussions to come as “observers” and in a “support” role
Ethiopia _ Egypt _ Agreement _ Washington Discussion
Photo credit : United States’ Department of the Treasury

November 6, 2019

Ethiopia’s Minister for Water, Irrigation and Energy, Seleshi Bekele, disclosed on Wednesday that the three countries have reached an agreement, at the “discussion,” in Washington DC, to continue tripartite discussion on the filling and operation of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam which is said to be worth over US $4 billion. 

He tweeted :
“Pleased to reach a consensus to continue the trilateral technical discussions on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). See details @fitsumaregaa @PMEthiopia @mfaethiopia.”  

Ethiopia _ Egypt _ Sudan _ United States _ The World Bank
Participants of the “Washington Discussion”( Foreign Affairs Ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan- among others) posing for pictures with US president Donald Trump. Photo : From the twitter page of US President Donald Trump

Earlier, US president Donald Trump tweeted,
“Just had a meeting with top representatives from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to help solve their long running dispute on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, one of the largest in the world, currently being built. The meeting went well and discussions will continue during the day!”

The parties who held the discussion, including the “facilitators”, The United States and The World Bank, have issued a joint statement.  United States’ Department of the Treasury has published it and it reads as follows: 

“WASHINGTON, D.C. – The foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and their delegations met with the Secretary of the Treasury and the President of the World Bank in Washington, D.C. on November 6, 2019.  The ministers reaffirmed their joint commitment to reach a comprehensive, cooperative, adaptive, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and to establish a clear process for fulfilling that commitment in accordance with the 2015 Declaration of Principles.

The foreign ministers noted their agreement to hold four technical governmental meetings at the level of water ministers.  The ministers agreed that the World Bank and the United States would support and attend the meetings as observers. The ministers also agreed to work toward completion of an agreement by January 15, 2020, and would attend two meetings in Washington, D.C. on December 9, 2019 and January 13, 2020, to assess and support progress.  If an agreement is not reached by January 15, 2020, the foreign ministers agree that Article 10 of the 2015 Declaration of Principles will be invoked.

The foreign ministers reaffirmed the significance of the Nile to the development of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, the importance of transboundary cooperation, and their shared interest in concluding an agreement.”

As pointed out in the joint statement, one of the key issues agreed upon  is that representatives of the United States government and The World Bank will attend the remaining government level discussions between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Another key point in the statement is that the parties have agreed to the proposal that the United States and The World Bank “would support” the discussions to come here after. What exactly is their support role is unclear.

Still what seems to be a problematic point is that the agreement puts a deadline for the finalization of the discussion between the disputing parties. They now have to finalize discussions and reach an agreement  by January 15. 

Discussion is scheduled for December 9, 2019 and January 13, 2010 which will take place in Washington again, not in Africa. 

What will happen if no agreement is reached by January 15? The parties have agreed to lean on invoking Article 10 of the Declaration of Principles which means that the parties will seek mediation. 

The last tripartite talk between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was held in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in early October but no agreement was reached as Ethiopia rejected Egyptian proposal on grounds  that Egypt intends to impose its own terms of agreement which Ethiopia said was in violation of its sovereignty. Among the Egyptian proposal was for Egypt to open an office near Ethiopian Dam project site to monitor the operation and filling of the Dam.

Related : Ethiopia rejects Egypt’s proposal on Renaissance Dam as it infringes on sovereignty

It was after the disagreement that Egypt called for an international mediation blaming Ethiopia for the failure of Khartoum meeting in early October. Ethiopia’s reaction, and position, was that the talks between the three countries should continue without the intervention of other mediator or mediators which seems to be in the spirit of the Declaration of Principles agreement that was signed in 2015.

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