CAIRO – 23 June 2020: In an interview with AP earlier this week, Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shokry said that if Ethiopia fills the Renaissance Dam reservoir in July - as it had announced before - without reaching an accord with Egypt and Sudan, it will be breaching the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the three states, and that the resumption of negotiations will be ruled out.
Professor of General International Law Ayman Salama tells Egypt Today that Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan realize that the Declaration of Principles is a general framework agreement that requires an integrated detailed technical accord as it is not a final agreement.
The accord should turn the 10 principles into technical rules and guidelines on the operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), and the fair shared use of the Blue Nile water after the construction and operation of the dam, the professor added.
Salama affirms that the Declaration of Principles is the "exclusive agreement" that binds the three states together, and that each state must respect the sanctity of international treaties affirmed in Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties signed in 1969.
"By dodging the conclusion of the integrated detailed technical agreement, Ethiopia evades its international duties provided in the Declaration of Principles, and violates the international rights of Egypt, a downstream country," Salama explains.
"Many countries break the provisions and principles of international law but they do not do it blatantly like Ethiopia," the professor of general international law says.
After Ethiopia started GERD construction without the consent of the downstream states, Egyptian and Ethiopian chiefs of state agreed on forming the International Committee of Experts that studies the impact of GERD construction.
The committee - encompassing 10 Ethiopian, Egyptian, and Sudanese experts as well as four neutral international experts – was launched to review Ethiopian studies and examine if they took into consideration international standards and impact on the two downstream states.
The committee issued a number of recommendations. The committee recommended carrying out engineering studies relevant to the dam's height, the capacity of the reservoir, and the dam's safety. The committee also recommended conducting water studies such as the dam's compatibility with the amount of water it reserves, and leakages rates. That is in addition to environmental studies, including the socio-economic impact on neighboring states.
On the sidelines of the African Union Summit, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi asked former Ethiopian Prime Minister Haleimariam Desalegn to resume negotiations.
The Egyptian and Ethiopian ministers of irrigation agreed to form the National Experts Committee (also known as the Tripartite National Committee) comprising 12 Egyptian, Sudanese, and Ethiopian experts to accomplish the recommendations of the International Committee of Experts with the aid of an international consulting company.
The three states selected Deltares and PRL France as consulting companies.
Cairo hosted a Tripartite National Committee on Renaissance Dam (TNCRD) meeting that ended without reaching consensus.
Before that meeting, the three countries held 14 rounds of consultation on resolving the disputes over the Renaissance Dam. However, these rounds failed to solve the dispute.
Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Mohamed Abdel-Ati, said that TNCRD did not reach an agreement on adopting guidelines. The guidelines were indicated in a report prepared by a technical committee on the effects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile Basin States after two days of talks.
Abdel-Ati declared that Egypt approves of the report’s outcomes, but the Ethiopian and Sudanese did not express consensus and called for amendments. The ministry halted all negotiations and said that all future decisions are at the hand of the cabinet.
Egypt suggested the participation of the World Bank in the Tripartite Committee of Experts as mediator. The committee was in charge of examining the impact of GERD construction on the two downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan.
Ethiopia declined the Egyptian proposal on the World Bank's participation in the Tripartite Committee of Experts.
The foreign affairs ministers and intelligence chiefs of the three states met in Khartoum upon Sudan's initiative but did not reach an agreement.
The Tripartite Committee of Experts' meeting attended by the irrigation ministers of the three states did not come up with an agreement and negotiations were postponed.
Ethiopia hosted the first technical meeting on GERD after the three states had agreed to resume talks in Washington in January 2020 with the participation of the World Bank and the United Nations.
The second technical meeting was held in Cairo tackling the rules of filling the reservoir in time of drought and extended drought, refill, and the coordination mechanism among the three states.
Sudan hosted the third technical meeting.
Addis Ababa hosted the fourth technical meeting.
The delegations of the three states met in Washington and a primary agreement was reached. The agreement included six provisions that consisted of a timetable for filling the reservoir that included times of drought and extended drought.
The Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) signed on March 23, 2015 by Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan in Khartoum consists of 10 principles.
The Declaration of Principles reads:
Understanding the increasing need of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and Republic of the Sudan for their cross-border water resources, and understanding the importance of the Nile River as the source of life and a vital source for development, the three countries commit to the following principles on the Renaissance Dam:
1 - Principle of Cooperation
- Cooperation must be based on mutual understanding, mutual interest, good intentions, benefit for all, and the principles of international law.
- Cooperation on understanding the water needs of upstream and downstream states.
2 – Principle of Development, Regional Integration, and Sustainability
- The goal of establishing the Renaissance Dam is power generation, contribution in economic development, and promotion of cross-border cooperation and regional integration through the generation of clean and sustainable energy.
3 - Principle of Not Causing Significant Harm
- The three countries will take all necessary measures to avoid causing a significant harm while using the Blue Nile/main river.
- In case a significant harm occurs to one of the states, the state that caused such harm – in the absence of an agreement on that act – must take all suitable measures in coordination with the harmed state to alleviate or inhibit the harm and discuss the compensation matter, if suitable.
4 - Principle of Impartial and Suitable Use
- The three states will use their shared water resources in their regions in an impartial and suitable method.
- To ensure their impartial and suitable use, the three countries will take into consideration – not exclusively - the below guidelines:
• The elements of geography, water geography, water, climate, environment, and other natural elements
• Social and economic needs of the concerned basin countries
• The residents who depend on the water resources in each of the basin countries
• Impact of the use of water resources in one of the basin countries on fellow basin countries
• The existing and possible uses of water resources, and the factors of preservation, protection, development, economics of water resources use, and the cost of measures taken for the matter
• The extent of alternatives availability - given the existence of comparative value – for planned or limited use
• The extent of each state's contribution in the Nile River system
• The extension and surface percentage of the basin in each basin state
5 - Principle of Cooperation in the First Filling and Management of the Dam
- The implementation of the recommendations of the International Experts Committee and the respect of the final outcomes of the conclusory report of the Tripartite Committee of Experts on the studies recommended in the final report of the International Experts Committee throughout the different phases of the project.
- The three states – in a cooperative spirit – use the final outcomes of the joint studies recommended in the final report of the International Experts Committee and agreed upon by the Tripartite Committee of Experts aiming for:
• Agreeing upon the guidelines and rules of the first filling of the Renaissance Dam including the different scenarios, in parallel to the construction process of the dam.
• Agreeing upon the guidelines and rules of the annual operation of the dam, which can be regulated every now and then by the dam's owner.
• Informing the two downstream countries about any unforeseen or urgent circumstances that require resetting the dam's operation process.
• To guarantee the continuity of cooperation and coordination on the operation of the renaissance dam in synchrony with the reservoirs of the two downstream countries, the three states will establish - through ministries concerned with water - a coordination mechanism.
• The timeframe to accomplish the abovementioned process will take 15 months since the preparation of the two studies recommended by the International Experts Committee
6 - Principle of Trust Building
- Downstream countries will be prioritized in purchasing the power generated from the Renaissance Dam
7- Principle of Information and Data Circulation
- Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan will provide to the National Experts Committee the information and data necessary to conduct the joint studies, in the good intention spirit and in the suitable time.
8 – Principle of Dam Safety
- The three states appreciate the efforts exerted by Ethiopia until present to implement the recommendations of the International Experts Committee pertinent to the dam's safety. In a good intention, Ethiopia will continue to fully implement the recommendations of the dam's safety stated in the International Experts Committee report.
9 – Principle of Sovereignty and Unity of the State's Region
- The three states will cooperate on the basis of equal sovereignty, unity of the state's region, mutual benefit, and good intentions aiming for the ideal use and suitable protection of the river.
10 – Principle of Peaceful Settlement of Conflicts
- The three states will settle their conflicts emerging from the interpretation or implementation of this accord by consensus through consultations and negotiations according to the principle of good intentions.
- If the parties do not succeed in resolving conflicts through consultations and negotiations, they can together request conciliation, mediation, or referring the matter to the chiefs of states.
Constructions in the Grand Renaissance Dam started on April 2, 2011 at a cost of $4.8 billion. It was built by the Italian construction and engineering company Salini Impergilo. The Italian company is headquartered in Milan. The dam is located on the Blue Nile with a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, and is expected to generate up to 6,000 megawatts of power. It is noted that Ethiopia wants to fill the reservoir in three years while Egypt wants the durations to be seven years.
Since May 2011, Cairo has voiced its concern over how the dam can reduce the country’s annual shares of 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water. Egypt’s average water per-capita is expected to drop from 663 cubic meters per year to 582 cubic meters by 2025, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) in 2014. Addis Ababa, however, claimed that the dam is necessary for its development and will not harm downstream countries.