Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt resume Nile talks

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020 00:00 |
A man sits in the street reading a copy of the Capital newspaper, an Ethiopian weekly business publication, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia yesterday, carrying in it’s headline reactions to remarks by United States (US) President Donald Trump regarding the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) hydroelectric dam Photo/Photo/AFP

Khartoum, Tuesday

Sudan has said it will hold three-way talks on Tuesday with Egypt and Ethiopia over a controversial Nile dam project that US President Donald Trump has warned could lead to military action.

Foreign and irrigation ministers from the three countries are to hold a videoconference brokered by the African Union (AU), the Sudanese irrigation ministry said on Monday, three months after the suspension of dialogue between the neighbouring countries over the construction of the $4.6bn mega-dam by Ethiopia.

Ethiopia last week accused Trump of inciting a “war” over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) after the US president on Friday spoke out against the project and said Egypt might destroy it.

Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew summoned US ambassador Michael Raynor to clarify Trump’s latest foray into a delicate, long-running dispute over Nile waters between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan.

“The incitement of war between Ethiopia and Egypt by a sitting US president neither reflects the long-standing partnership and strategic alliance between Ethiopia and the United States, nor is acceptable in international law governing interstate relations,” his ministry said.

Dangerous situation

Trump told reporters on Friday: “It’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way … They’ll end up blowing up the dam.”

On Saturday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office defended the dam and said Addis Ababa was committed to AU-led talks that it said had made “significant progress”.

Egypt depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water and sees the dam as an existential threat, while Ethiopia views the project as essential for its electrification and development.

The US announced last month it was suspending a portion of its financial aid for Ethiopia, citing a lack of progress in talks and Addis Ababa’s “unilateral decision” to start filling the reservoir.

William Davison, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera that Trump’s comment were “pretty outrageous” and suggest that he is “not really in touch with the reality on the ground”.

“The idea of conflict to solve this dispute over the Nile has always been very far-fetched and ultimately hugely counter-productive – it could lead to some sort of regional conflagration,” he said.

Trump’s comments

Timothy Kaldas, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, told Al Jazeera that – despite Trump’s comments – Egypt is unlikely to take military action over the dispute.

“It’s unclear exactly what [Trump’s] motivation is. I think part of it actually is vanity – I think he is pretty annoyed that the Ethiopians withdrew from the talks unilaterally, and refused to show up to Washington for what was meant to be the last round of talks,” Kaldas said.

“I don’t think that there is a serious risk that Egypt is going to proceed with any sort of military action on the dam. They’ve made it pretty clear that that’s not what their priority is.”   - Agencies

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