The Takeaway: Nile Dam talks fail, disaster escalates

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Hot take: Biden administration faces diplomatic check in Nile Dam disaster

At his Senate affirmation listening to in January, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that the disaster in Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) might “boil over” within the absence of a diplomatic decision. It didn’t take lengthy.

‘Last chance’ for diplomacy flops in Kinshasa. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stated that talks this week in Kinshasa with Ethiopia and Sudan have been the “final probability” for a diplomatic resolution to the GERD disaster. The talks, mediated by Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who turned chairman of the African Union in February, broke up in acrimony on April 6 with Egypt and Sudan on one aspect and Ethiopia on the opposite, blaming one another for the failure to reach an settlement on how water within the Nile ought to be allotted, as Ayah Aman experiences. In a press release, Ethiopia declared it would go forward with the second filling of the GERD, which might diminish the waters that move to Egypt. 

Sisi: Don’t contact our water. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi stated immediately that “an Egyptian water drop shall not be messed with, because all options open.” Egypt’s inhabitants of 100 million is determined by the Nile for 95% of its water wants. Any interruption within the move of Nile water due to the dam might have financial and social penalties. Egypt needs an internationally brokered plan for water administration of the Nile, together with the brand new dam. For Ethiopia, although, the Nile is also a delicate nationalist difficulty. Talks mediated by the United States, the World Bank and the African Union, together with the most recent spherical in Kinshasa, have up to now yielded little progress.

US has leverage. Egypt and Sudan say they are going to take their case to the Security Council. Blinken has promised “fully engaged” diplomacy within the area. State Department spokesperson Ned Price stated on April 6 the United States will “encourage a productive dialogue” to resolve the disaster. The Biden administration has good relations and leverage with all three events. Blinken spoke this week with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok concerning the GERD talks and US help for Sudan’s transition, as we clarify right here. Washington has long-standing ties, together with substantial assist and help, to each Ethiopia and Egypt. But are they sufficient? The Trump administration and the World Bank labored out a framework for administration in February 2020, however Ethiopia on the final minute failed to point out up and signal the paper. Plus, there are different points within the background: The Biden administration can also be “gravely concerned by reported human rights violations, abuses and atrocities in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.”

Five Quick Takes on Israel, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt 

1. ‘Knives drawn’ as Netanyahu tries forming authorities

Complicated, possibly inconceivable. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the primary shot at assembling a brand new authorities following one more spherical of inconclusive elections. He has the help of 52 lawmakers out of a wanted minimal of 61, however Netanyahu is aware of gaining the required endorsement of 9 extra “is going to be complicated, perhaps impossible,” Mazal Mualem writes. The embattled premier is standing trial on corruption costs, and as Ben Caspit places it, a protracted record of political foes are “now waiting with knives drawn for him to tumble.”

Arab parties hold back endorsements. Israel’s longest-serving prime minister sought to win over Arab voters during the campaign, but Afif Abu Much breaks down why the Arab-led parties — the Joint List and Raam — declined to recommend Netanyahu (or any other candidate) to form the next government. 

Bennett, Abbas hold the keys. Netanyahu will devote his time and energy on two key figures: right-wing Yamina party Leader Naftali Bennett and Raam leader Mansour Abbas. Bennett told supporters that he will back a “right-wing” government and turned down a partnership with center-left Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid. Bibi’s broad pitch to Abbas and Arab voters was that “I see myself as the prime minister of everyone.” Rina Bassist has the latest.

2. US-Iran: ‘new chapter’ depends on hotel shuttle diplomacy

The United States, Iran and the remaining parties to the nuclear deal are meeting in Vienna this week for talks aimed at reviving the landmark accord. The US delegation will be in a separate hotel. Iran’s messaging is so far positive. President Hassan Rouhani, still hoping to strike a deal with Washington before he leaves office in June, referred to the Vienna talks as a ‘new chapter.’ But the window of opportunity may be closing with elections in June. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seems unyielding in his demand that the United States must first lift all sanctions, but there may still be some room for a path forward. Ali Hashem has the scoop on rumblings of some backchannel mediation and choreography heading into the talks.

3. Syria’s economic turmoil fuels war

As Syria’s economic woes deepen, rival forces are battling for control of critical trade routes. Russia’s recent bombing of Turkish-controlled areas in northern Syria were likely intended as a not-so-subtle message to Ankara, which backs the opposition and is under pressure from Moscow to reopen the strategic M4 highway. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, is pressing Russia and China to allow the UN Security Council to facilitate greater humanitarian access to opposition-controlled parts of Syria. It’s painfully needed: The UN says 13.4 million people across Syria require aid to survive. But from Moscow’s perspective, the flow of humanitarian aid to the Kurdish-held northeast and rebel-controlled northwest would only reinforce the status quo, Fehim Tastekin writes. 

4. Saudi Arabia goes big on post-pandemic megaprojects

Private sector firms in Saudi Arabia will pour $1.3 trillion worth of investments into the Saudi economy over the next decade, according to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as part of a plan to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil. But foreign investors have been wary of billion-dollar investments in Vision 2030 flagship megaprojects, including the futuristic city NEOM. As Sebastian Castelier explains, “The narrative of Saudi investments leading the way may be intended to compensate, or overshadow, for the kingdom’s inability to meet foreign direct investment targets.”

5. Egypt’s battle towards feminine genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) stays an issue in Egypt, regardless of a 2008 regulation criminalizing the observe. Lawmakers have given preliminary approval to laws that may impose jail sentences on violators, however there’s skepticism over whether or not the harder penalties would truly discourage FGM in parts of the North African country where the ritual practice is common. 

The parliament’s move coincided with the death of feminist author Nawal El Saadawi, whose own experience with the procedure “awakened Saadawi’s sense of the injustice and violence suffered by women in Egypt’s patriarchal society, particularly in rural communities like the one she grew up in,” writes Shahira Amin. 

One cool thing: Egypt’s royal mummies on parade

Twenty-two ancient mummies — 18 kings and four queens — processed through the streets of Egypt’s capital on Saturday, making their way from Tahrir Square to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in the El Fustat area of Old Cairo. 

Shahira Amin writes that superstitious observers feared disturbing the dead could unleash yet another disaster in a country still reeling from the world’s worst most memeable traffic jam. The multimillion-dollar parade avoided the dreaded “curse of the pharaohs,” but it surely stays to be seen whether or not the spectacle will reach luring much-needed vacationers again to Egypt. 

ICYMI: million-dollar PKK arms rip-off gone awry

Amberin Zaman has the wild story of how a pair of small-town Ukrainian businessmen have been taken hostage by the Kurdistan Workers Party after the militants have been swindled out of $1 million. The three-and-a-half-year saga, full with code names, illicit weapons and an Iraqi mountain cave-turned-jail cell, has all of the makings of a Cold War spy thriller. Plus, an look by Trump ally Erik Prince.