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Monday, 12 April 2021

Ethiopia trolls

Ethiopia thinks it has cleared up Egypt and Sudan’s concerns on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), saying today that the dam’s safety is “well taken care of.” Addis Ababa claims it has “addressed” its downstream neighbors’ technical concerns over the dam by sharing data on the dam's operation and filling, the second phase of which Ethiopia is still going to begin next August during the rainy season, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

In the diplomatic equivalent of trolling, Addis Ababa says that Egypt didn’t appreciate its “generosity,” which undermined the success of the negotiations. The fact that there are no comparable situations apparently means that Ethiopia agreeing to sit down with the two countries that could face destructive flooding or severe water shortages is an indication of Addis’ goodwill, the statement says. The statement also suggests that Sudan would benefit from the dam, which could deter severe floods.

GERD talks are still in limbo: The latest round of four-days talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia in Kinshasa once again reached a dead end after the three countries were unable to agree on how to proceed with negotiations. Egypt and Sudan do not want Addis Ababa to continue with plans for the second dam filling before reaching a binding agreement, while Ethiopia insists to proceed with or without an agreement. A proposal put forward by Sudan to bring in new international mediators was rejected by Ethiopia, who preferred to stick with the African Union-led process. But the red line that President Abdel Fattah El Sisi recently put to warn against threats to Egypt’s share of the Nile’s water remains and would not be tolerated, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said yesterday. The government is taking all diplomatic and political measures to try and resolve the issue, he added, after earlier stressing that the start of the dam’s second filling would be a “tipping point."

Enter Russia: GERD should be on the agenda for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who is in town for talks with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Shoukry. Lavrov met with El Sisi earlier this morning and was wrapping up a separate sit-down with FM Shoukry as we hit dispatch, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. Earlier press reports indicated the stalled GERD talks would be high on the agenda for Lavrov's visit, which comes after expectations that Russian President Vladimir Putin would visit Egypt sometime in March did not materialize.

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