US intervenes to break deadlock in GERD talks, avert military escalation

Ethiopia Sudan
(Source: Asharq Al-Awsat, By Mohammed Abdo Hassanein, Cairo) –
 
A handout satellite image shows a closeup view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia July 12, 2020. (Handout via Reuters)

Washington called on Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to resume stalled talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) “urgently,” pledging to provide political and technical support to facilitate a successful outcome.

US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman had carried out an African tour, which included Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, from May 4 to 13 in a bid to reach a breakthrough in the crisis.

He sought to break the deadlock and prevent escalation, in light of Addis Ababa’s insistence to move forward with the second filling of the dam reservoir in the upcoming rainy season before reaching a legally binding agreement with the two downstream countries.

The last round of failed talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was held in April in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Feltman discussed with leaders in Addis Ababa, Cairo, and Khartoum, Egypt and Sudan’s concerns over water security and the safety,” a statement by the US State Department read.

“The 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,” it added.

It identified the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the parties and the July 2020 statement by the AU Bureau as important foundations for these negotiations.

“The United States is committed to addressing the interlinked regional crises and to supporting a prosperous and stable Horn of Africa in which its citizens have a voice in their governance and governments are accountable to their citizens,” added the State Department.

It revealed that Feltman will return to the region soon to continue his intense diplomatic effort on behalf of President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

According to observers, the US involvement is seen as a “major shift” in Washington’s stance towards the region.

The Biden administration is seeking to avert a “a looming military confrontation as the situation worsens, which could threaten its interests in the region,” expert on African affairs, Dr. Hany Raslan, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

In July 2020, Addis Ababa completed the first phase of filling the dam reservoir, in preparation for its operation, achieving its target of 4.9 billion cubic meters. This year, it targets filling an additional 13.5 billion cubic meters.

 

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