Washington calls for resumption of Ethiopian dam talks with Sudan and Egypt
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (File photo: www.pietrangeli.com)
The USA affirmed yesterday its commitment to working with international partners to find a solution to important issues in the Horn of Africa, including the differences between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the border dispute between Khartoum and Addis Ababa.
The US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, said in a statement at the end of his visit to Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia from May 4 to 13, that he discussed with leaders in Addis Ababa, Cairo, and Khartoum “Egypt and Sudan’s concerns over water security, and how the safety and operation of the dam can be reconciled with Ethiopia’s development needs through substantive and results-oriented negotiations among the parties under the leadership of the African Union, which must resume urgently.
“We believe that the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the parties and the July 2020 statement by the AU Bureau are important foundations for these negotiations, and the United States is committed to providing political and technical support to facilitate a successful outcome,” the media note of the US Department of State reads.
The envoy discussed with the leaders of the three countries the dam talks under the auspices of the African Union and the need for a speedy resumption. He emphasised that Washington is committed to providing political and technical support to facilitate a successful outcome of the negotiations.
The US envoy stated he will return to the countries in the Horn of Africa to continue intensive diplomatic efforts to resolve the differences in the region.
Feltman called the Sudanese transition to democracy “a once-in-a-generation opportunity that can serve as an example for the region” and said that “The USA will continue to support the country’s ongoing transition to democracy so that Sudan can claim its place as a responsible regional actor after three decades as a destabilizing force.”
The USA and EU have both affirmed their willingness to mediate in the negotiations on the GERD between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan.
'The USA will continue to support the country’s ongoing transition to democracy so that Sudan can claim its place as a responsible regional actor after three decades as a destabilizing force.'
- Jeffrey Feltman, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa
According to PM Abdallah Hamdok, there will be too many risks without a tight and binding legal agreement on the Nile waters. “We hope to reach such an agreement before the date of filling the dam in July, as announced by Ethiopia”.
He referred to the initiative of the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that “we responded to it stressing the necessity to reach a binding legal agreement in accordance with international law”.
On April 20, Radio Dabanga reported that the Sudanese government called on the UN Security Council to help break the negotiations deadlock between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan regarding GERD, after the latest round of talks in Kinshasa earlier this month produced little progress.
In a statement mid-April, the Sudanese government asserted that “while Ethiopia negotiates for its right for socio-economic development, and Egypt for the right of its water share, Sudan negotiates to safeguard the lives of more than 20 million people living downstream the GERD”.
On March 13, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok wrote a letter to the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, and the USA to request formation of a ‘quartet committee’ to mediate in the negotiations of the GERD. In the letter, Hamdok suggests changing the method used in the negotiations, which led to the failure to reach an agreement between the three parties during the past negotiation period, as well as establishing an approach based on the presence of the main international partners.
Hamdok’s letter followed an agreement reached in Cairo in April between Hamdok and Egyptian President Abdelfattah El Sisi, who said “nobody will be permitted to take a single drop of Egypt’s water, otherwise the region will fall into unimaginable instability.”
Colonial border
As for the Sudanese-Ethiopian border dispute, Lt Gen Shamseldin Kabbashi, strongly denied “rumours that the El Fashaga farmlands [in eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref] will be shared between Sudan and Ethiopia, as was proposed in an initiative by the United Arab Emirates.
In early April, Sudanese authorities closed the border crossing between El Galabat in eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref and the Ethiopian town of Metema following attacks by Ethiopian gunmen on Sudanese government forces.
The 1,600 kilometres border between Sudan and Ethiopia was drawn in colonial times. It has never been clearly demarcated since Sudan became independent. The lack of clear border markers has made it easy for Ethiopian militants to occupy fertile farmlands in eastern El Gedaref.
In eastern Sudan’s El Fashaga locality, Ethiopian farmers have been cultivating crops for decades. The lands are protected by Ethiopian gunmen (called shifta in the region).
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