Has diplomacy run out of playing cards to play to finish the Nile dam dispute?

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CAIRO — The spherical of negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam between the Egyptian, Sudanese and Ethiopian ministers of water and irrigation concluded April 6 with out settlement in Kinshasa, Congo. No consensus was even reached to proceed the diplomatic course of to settle the unresolved disputes over the filling and operation of the dam.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez mentioned in a press assertion after the conferences ended, “The meeting has not achieved any progress and will not result in an agreement on relaunching the negotiations. Ethiopia refused the Egyptian and Sudanese proposal to form an international quartet led by the Democratic Republic of Congo as mediator between the three countries.” He additionally mentioned, “Ethiopia also refused a proposition that Egypt made during the closing session and Sudan supported to resume negotiations under the wing of the Congolese president and with the participation of observers.”

He added, “The Ethiopian stance once again proves the lack of Ethiopia’s well-intentioned political willingness to negotiate. It is stalling and procrastinating, and it is clinging to a formal and ineffective negotiation mechanism.” 

The spherical of talks was held in Congo as a result of the nation now heads the African Union Commission. The three-day talks between the ministers of water and irrigation of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia started April 4 after Ethiopia insisted on continuing with the second stage of filling the dam reservoir in the course of the flood season in July and retaining round 13.5 billion cubic meters of water.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs blamed Sudan and Egypt for the failure of the talks and in search of to “undermine the AU-led process and take the matter out of the African platform,” including that the scheduled second filling of the dam will proceed as scheduled.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi launched statements that immediately threatened and warned towards any measures that infringe upon Egyptian pursuits in Nile water.

The talks geared toward figuring out the approach, course of and timing of negotiations, along with mechanisms guaranteeing dedication to them to safe constructive negotiations and overcome the stalemate that has solid a shadow over the talks for the reason that sponsorship of the African Union started in June 2020. The goal was to reach a complete and legally binding settlement on the filling and operation of the dam in a manner that will make sure the pursuits of the three international locations and preserve the rights of the 2 downstream international locations, avoiding the creation of dangers or damages for Egypt and Sudan when the dam shops water.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry mentioned in the course of the first session of the Kinshasa talks April Four that the negotiations “are the last chance to reach an agreement on the operation and filling of the dam before the next flood season.”

An Egyptian technical supply who participated within the Kinshasa conferences informed Al-Monitor, “The Egyptian delegation attended the Kinshasa meetings based on instructions from the political leadership to offer several alternative solutions to the remaining points of contention through serious dialogue and diplomatic means. The Egyptian suggestions were backed by Sudan and observers participating in the meetings.”

The supply added on situation of anonymity, “A detailed report about the meetings and their outcomes will be presented, and the situation will be assessed, given the failure to reach an agreement and the Egyptian political leadership’s halt of negotiations. Moving forward, Egypt has several scenarios to deter any attempts to impose a fait accompli and sabotage the Nile water.”

During the talks, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi had warned towards unilateral measures that Ethiopia would possibly soak up filling the dam reservoir. In statements cited by the Sudan News Agency, she mentioned Ethiopia’s first filling of the dam “unilaterally resulted in a week of thirst, and it negatively affected irrigation and the animal wealth needs. By proceeding with the second filling despite Sudan’s warnings, Ethiopia would be achieving short-term political gains.” She said, “Sudan refuses any unilateral filling of the dam because a conflict over resources would mean an unwanted future for Africa.”

Mohamed Nasreddin Allam, a former Egyptian minister of water resources, told Al-Monitor, “If Ethiopia proceeds with the second filling without Egypt and Sudan’s approval, it would be somewhat declaring war.”

Hani Raslan, an expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor, “Ethiopia has made its own bed by proceeding with the second filling in any case. Egypt is unlikely to accept that another state controls the fate and lives of 100 million Egyptians. The Ethiopian leadership is responsible for dragging the region into an unjustified conflict.”

Raslan said, “There were many opportunities to reach consensual solutions to cooperate in the eastern Nile and achieve the interests of all parties by generating electricity to Ethiopia and not harming the water supplies of Egypt and Sudan, thus avoiding a conflict that would be costly for all. However, Ethiopia has dealt with the GERD issue as a zero-sum game, without caring about peaceful coexistence with its neighbors.” The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is also known by its initials, GERD.

He said any decision to launch a military attack on the dam could strengthen Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration “amid the conflicts and divisions inside Ethiopia, significantly with the nearing elections.”

With the failure of the negotiations, worldwide regulation skilled Musaed Abdel Aty informed Al-Monitor, “Egypt and Sudan have a legal commitment to return to the Security Council, under Article 7, and brief it by giving a unified speech that includes a legal and technical narration of what happened during the negotiation rounds under African Union auspices. Their briefing must describe the current situation in the region and Ethiopia’s clear and direct threats to peace and security, and it must urge the council to fulfill its role and issue a decision to stop the second filling until a satisfactory agreement that guarantees the interests and rights of the downstream countries is reached.”

He added, “The Kinshasa talks revealed the Ethiopian recklessness and foiling of any chance at peaceful settlement of the conflict by refusing international mediation. This is a violation of the rules of international law.”

Before the conferences, Sisi had addressed the Congolese president in a letter during which he mentioned Egypt was striving for an settlement to be reached pretty rapidly, earlier than the flood season.

Abdel Aty mentioned, “Sisi’s discourse carried several connotations about Egypt’s respect for the African Union’s efforts and quest to solve the dispute through diplomatic and peaceful means.”

Coincidentally with the conferences of the ministers of water and irrigation in Kinshasa, the chief of employees of Egypt’s armed forces, Mohamed Hegazi, was in Sudan attending the tip of air maneuvers of the Nile Eagles 2 train, during which high Egyptian fighter jets participated, at Merowe air base. The train follows the Nile Eagles 1 maneuvers held in November. Hegazi mentioned, “Egypt stands by the Sudanese army. We are in the same boat, and we look forward to a promising and secure future.”