Ethiopian PM says, “I ordered a signature on dam negotiation to be delayed.”

The negotiation between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan did not get signed last week. Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed says he ordered for it to be delayed. He also believes that agreement could be reached within a short time while his Ambassador to the United States,Fitsum Arega, thinks otherwise

Ethiopian PM _ Parliament
Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed during answering questions from parliamentarians on February 3, 2020. Photo credit : EBC

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was in the House of People’s Representatives on Monday in the afternoon to answer questions from the parliamentarians.

Although many of the questions focused on domestic issues, particularly security matters, there was a question about the ongoing negotiations on the Ethiopian dam too.

The parliamentarians asked updates on the issues.

“When it comes to the Grand Renaissance Dam, there are no divergent views between the previous Ethiopian Prime Minister and me,” he said.

“Win-Win solution” is where the negotiation should lead to, he added. He told parliamentarians that negotiators briefed him briefed about the completion of the negotiation process, but he ordered the signature to be delayed. Why?

He said that he wanted to have a detailed view of the agreement and a discussion on it. It is, however, unclear if the debate is cabinet-level, in the parliament or public discussion. From what he said, it seems negotiators ( Seleshi Bekele – Ethiopia’s irrigation, water, and energy minister is chief negotiator) proposed to the prime minister that discussing details of the technical and legal aspects of the agreement is in the interest of Ethiopia before signing it.  

It was after that, he told parliamentarians, that he had a phone conversation with the President of United States of America, Donald Trump, with treasury department secretary and with The World Bank President, David Malpass.

Abiy said that he explained to them Ethiopia believes in principles of diplomacy and is interested in a win-win solution.

He assured the parliament that there will be no negotiation that compromises Ethiopian national interest. 

However, he did not give a clue that Egypt and Ethiopia are not still on the same page as far as the filling and operation of the dam are concerned. 

However, he expressed his feeling that he believes the talk will conclude within a short time.

His Ambassador to the United States thinks otherwise. It might take a long time before the agreement is signed – an indication no agreement is reached on crucial matters related to the dam.

If Egypt does not change its position, it could take a long time to reach an agreement.

Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, Fitusm Arega, had an interview with the Voice of America Amharic service last Saturday. He is of the view that reaching an agreement could take a long time unless Egypt is willing to be flexible with its latest position.

“Although Egypt has shown interest in the speedy conclusion of the agreement, I am afraid that Egypt’s stand on detailed issues could delay the needed agreement,” VOA Amharic cited the Ambassador as saying.

The ongoing negotiation has three pieces, the Ambassador elaborated. Filling of the dam, operation of the dam, and drought mitigation mechanism.

Three drought scenarios,  according to the Ambassador, are drought, consecutive drought, and prolonged dry years.

What exactly is the Egyptian position that is hindering the final agreement? Ethiopia wants to keep the scope of the negotiation within the Grand Renaissance Dam, but Egypt seems to be going off-topic to the point that they seem to be interested in discussing the Water sharing issue, Fitsum Arega said during the interview.

The discussion planned for two days (between January 28 and 29) was extended to four days after negotiating parties failed to reach an agreement.

And the resolution after four days was for the countries to meet again after working out details of technical and legal issues. And the three countries are expected to meet again at the end of this month.

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