Egypt backs out of verbal agreement on 4-7 year timeframe to fill Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reservoir | MadaMasr
The irrigation ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan met on Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to be briefed on the latest recommendations on the timeframe to fill the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s reservoir, a contentious issue that has long driven a wedge between the parties amid fears of the impact on downstream water supply.
A 15-member scientific study group, comprised of five scientists and researchers from each country, presented its findings on Tuesday to Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity Seleshi Bekele, along with his Egyptian and Sudanese counterparts, Mohamed Abdel Aty and Khadr Mohamed Qasmallah.
No specific conclusions emerged officially from the meeting, the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation announced through the state-owned MENA news agency on Wednesday. The statement affirmed that all parties are committed to continuing talks, without providing further details.
Yet an Ethiopian diplomatic source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, says that there was an initial verbal agreement between the parties, which Cairo has since backed away from.
“The ministers reviewed what the team has been doing during the past three months and consulted on a way forward,” Teferra Beyene, advisor to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, tells Mada Masr.
While the study group’s findings have not been officially disclosed, the Ethiopian source tells Mada Masr that the team recommended the 74 billion cubic meter dam reservoir be filled over four to seven years, depending on the amount of rainfall and intensity of the Nile’s water flow.
Following the presentation of the report, the source described Ethiopia and Sudan’s ministers as immediately accepting the recommendations, and expressing a readiness to begin work on a joint declaration to bind the parties to these terms.
While the Egyptian delegation verbally accepted the report’s findings at first, it later said it would need more time to consider, the source explains. “The Egyptian delegation changed their minds and refused to sign the agreement. Instead, they want first to consult at headquarters and come to a decision.”
The four-to-seven-year window falls outside the timeframe Cairo has pushed for to fill the dam. An Egyptian diplomat told Mada Masr at the close of August that Cairo’s concerns have centered around the pace at which the dam’s reservoirs would be filled, and that this issue was the subject of “tough and elaborate talks.”