CAIRO - 

After about a month of remarkable silence, Egypt returned to talking about the Renaissance Dam through the words of its senior officials, as President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi stressed a few days ago the need to reach a binding legal agreement to fill and operate the dam, followed by the warning of the Egyptian Minister of Irrigation that the Ethiopian dam suffers from problems. An artist, accusing Addis Ababa of concealing its water consumption.

Amid Egyptian skepticism, Ethiopia announced in mid-July that it had achieved its goal for the second year with regard to filling the dam’s reservoir, which would enable it to operate the first two turbines to generate electricity, coinciding with the failure to reach an agreement under the auspices of the African Union between Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa, and efforts also failed. The Egyptian-Sudanese issue of a Security Council resolution strengthens the position of the two countries.

The most prominent reasons for the Egyptian calm are related to the dam file and its diplomatic and media cooling for weeks.

The lack of water damage due to the second filling, and the continuation of the armed civil conflict in Ethiopia for months, which may enhance the process of controlling the dam crisis in favor of Cairo, in light of the decline in the rates of progress in its construction;

Addis Ababa's preoccupation with its internal crises, according to observers.

In this report, Al Jazeera Net monitors several questions about the nature of the current Egyptian position towards the Renaissance Dam file, and is Cairo about to withdraw interest in it, or is the situation reassuring for it, and what has the dam issue reached?

Where did the Renaissance Dam file arrive?

  • First from a technical perspective:

At a time when the Egyptian-Sudanese-Ethiopian negotiations are still deadlocked over the rules of filling and operation, Addis Ababa announced last July the completion of the second filling and the start of water bypassing the dam's body enough to start producing energy.

In the midst of the Ethiopian celebrations of the second filling, Cairo officially remained silent, while experts and former ministers questioned this, stressing that it was aiming to store 13.5 billion cubic meters of water, while it only managed to store 3 billion cubic meters.

For reasons that Egyptian experts linked to the failure to elevate the middle passage of the dam and to complete construction and concrete works.

And the former Sudanese Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Othman Al-Tom, has previously stated that Ethiopia will start preparing for the third filling of the dam's lake after next December, by completing the construction and heightening the middle passage.

  • Second, from a diplomatic perspective:

Since last April, the tripartite negotiations on the Renaissance Dam have stalled, at a time when Cairo and Khartoum on the one hand, and Addis Ababa on the other, have accused each other of being responsible for the failure of the dam negotiations sponsored by the African Union for months, within a negotiating track that began 10 years ago.

Weeks ago, the UN Security Council lowered the Egyptian-Sudanese expectations in favor of the two countries regarding the dam file, at a time when local news revived about an imminent Egyptian move and considered the second filling of the dam a "declaration of war", while official statements remained conflicting.

And last month, an Algerian initiative did not succeed in resolving the crisis file between the three countries, in parallel with an Ethiopian call - rejected by Cairo and Khartoum - to quickly sign or ratify the framework agreement for the Nile Basin countries, known as the "Entebbe" agreement, to re-partition the Nile waters.

And last Friday, the Ethiopian army announced that it had "thwarted the attempt of elements allied with the Tigray People's Liberation Front to infiltrate the area where the Renaissance Dam is located to disrupt its construction with the help of Sudan," while Khartoum rejected these accusations.

Has Egypt retracted its interest in the Renaissance Dam, or is the situation reassuring for it?

After weeks of official and media silence, senior Egyptian officials spoke of the Renaissance Dam, as President Sisi stressed the need to reach a binding legal agreement to fill and operate the dam.

During a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades in Cairo last Saturday, he called on the international community to play a greater role in resolving the dam issue in order to preserve the stability of the region.

The next day, Egyptian Minister of Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Aty said that the Renaissance Dam was suffering from technical problems, and accused Ethiopia of keeping its water consumption secret.

Abdel-Aty confirmed - in statements to Al Jazeera - the existence of diplomatic moves in the file of the Renaissance Dam, which can only be announced if they produce a result, explaining that the mediation initiative announced by Algeria to re-negotiate between the three countries "if it does not bring a result, it is useless."

The Egyptian minister attributed "the reason for the failure of the second filling of the Renaissance Dam to what he described as expected technical problems, and said that Ethiopia informed Egypt and Sudan of the second filling incorrectly," noting that "Cairo's concern increased in light of the wrong information provided by Ethiopia."

Why did the momentum and talk about the dam file returned at this time?

Helped reduce media tension locally, the renewal of tribal conflicts in Ethiopia, which did not announce any new steps around the third filling;

This was reinforced by a statement by President Sisi, in mid-July, in which he called on the Egyptians to "calm down", and considered that all things were going right with regard to the dam.

While the former Egyptian Minister of Irrigation, Mohamed Nasr Allam, ruled out a lull in Egypt's political and security moves in the file of the Ethiopian dam, he stressed that his country is striving hard so that Ethiopia does not continue wasting time to achieve its goals.

In statements to Al Jazeera Net, Allam attributed the reasons for the return of the Egyptian momentum and interest at the present time to the dam file to the importance of the issue for the lives of the people and Egypt's national security, and even its strategic balance.

In light of the current regional and international changes and turmoil, the former Egyptian minister explained that it is difficult to predict possible Egyptian moves in the dam file, but he stressed that international attention has gone away from the region, and this may have a negative (political) and a positive (security) impact, without To provide more details.

He added that it is also very difficult to predict Ethiopian stability, with weak axes and capabilities of the African Union, noting that the picture is very turbulent, difficult to explain and confusing in choosing the most appropriate for this issue, at least in the coming weeks.

Professor of Political Science at Cairo University, Hassan Nafaa, went on to say that the origin of the Egyptian retreat and the cooling of the dam file is due to the lack of damage from the second filling.

In statements to Al Jazeera Net, he explained that Egypt was expecting the second filling of the dam lake to reach 14 billion cubic meters, but Ethiopia only succeeded in filling from 3 to 4 billion cubic meters, and therefore no harm occurred to Egypt, and this led to the passage of the filling process safely.

However, Nafaa added that the crisis is not over yet, as filling operations will be repeated frequently in the future, noting that there are at least 7 filling times, and every time the new filling date approaches, the dam file will come back.

He stressed that the crisis of the Renaissance Dam will not end until Ethiopia accepts to sign a binding legal agreement between the parties, warning that failure to sign will heat up the crisis, especially as we approach July every year, when the operations of filling the dam lake.

What are the reasons for the stagnation of the Renaissance Dam negotiations?

According to the Egyptian academic Abbas Sharaki, professor of water resources at Cairo University, the current stagnation in the dam negotiations - since the Security Council session last July, through the European Union's announcement of its readiness to intervene, and then the Algerian initiative - is due to 4 reasons, according to what he explained in Posted on Facebook, which are:

  • Ethiopia's failure in the second storage of 3 billion cubic meters gave another year's opportunity, as the current storage is not effective and does not change any scenario for the solution.

  • This year's flood so far has increased by about 30%.

  • The civil war in Ethiopia in several regions, in addition to the war in Tigray.

  • The fires that Algeria witnessed during the past days, which led to the delay of the Algerian initiative.

What is the nature of the role required of the international community to resolve the dam crisis from an Egyptian perspective?

According to Nafaa, President Sisi’s recent statements about the need for the international community to play a greater role in resolving the issue of the Renaissance Dam in order to preserve the stability of the region are not new, explaining that their meaning is if the international community does not press enough to persuade Ethiopia to reach a binding agreement to fill and operate the dam;

The possibility of the crisis escalating into a military confrontation exists, and thus a threat to the security and stability of the region still exists.

He added that Sisi's statements confirm that the escalation of the crisis is not in the interest of the international community, and this is the essence of the Egyptian position all the time, and that the president's talk on more than one occasion about the red lines (for Egyptian national security) and Egypt's going to the Security Council (twice) was the goal to draw the attention of the community The international community pointed out that the issue threatens stability in the region and international peace and security.

What are the Egyptian moves required in this period to confront the dam crisis?

What are the alternatives?

Nafaa believes that the required Egyptian moves are moves at the African level in general, and the countries located on the Nile River basin in particular, in addition to moving towards the major countries, led by the United States, which previously played a role in reaching a draft agreement on the Renaissance Dam that it signed Cairo and Addis Ababa rejected it.

The Egyptian academic also points to the need to move towards China, one of the financiers of the Renaissance Dam, and at the level of Arab countries, as happened with the League of Arab States, which took a decision to support the Egyptian and Sudanese positions on the dam file.

Nafaa stressed the importance of moves with all parties that can exert any positive influence in the crisis and help resolve it.

In the first quarter of this year, Egypt signed 3 security and military cooperation agreements with Sudan, Uganda and Burundi, which are among the 11 countries located on the Nile Basin, as part of efforts to reposition among African countries, especially those located in the Nile Basin.

What is the nature of the technical problems that prevented the completion of the second filling of the dam, according to what the Egyptian Minister of Irrigation stated?

Commenting on this, the Egyptian academic Mohamed Hafez, Professor of Dams and Ports Engineering, explained that there are actually technical problems in the construction of the dam, which were a major reason for the failure of the second filling, most notably the metal installations of the pipes that carry water from the front of the dam to the dam’s power station (turbine tubes). .

In statements to Al-Jazeera Net, Hafez added that the turbine tubes were not complete and were not installed properly - before the start of the second filling - and it was the main obstacle to pouring concrete in an appropriate amount on the eastern and western blocks of the dam, in addition to cutting off the roads leading to the dam due to the civil war that was transporting Fixtures needed from the port in Djibouti.

What is the nature of Ethiopia's secrecy on its water consumption?

What are the implications for Egypt?

Regarding the Egyptian Minister of Irrigation’s accusation of Ethiopia withholding the amount of its water consumption, Hafez explained that it is a realistic and correct accusation, as the Blue Nile Valley is not only the amount of water that reaches the Sudanese-Ethiopian border, estimated at 55 billion cubic metres, but there are new Chinese studies that estimate the volume of water Of the Blue Nile, 82 billion cubic meters.

The Egyptian dam expert added that this means that Ethiopia gets the lion's share of the waters of the Blue Nile (in addition to groundwater and other water for irrigation), not Egypt and Sudan, as Addis Ababa claims.

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