Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to resume Nile dam talks after Trump’s explosive comments triggered outrage

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Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan would be resuming talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Tuesday after a seven-week break following President Donald Trump’s explosive comments on Friday and an angry reaction by Ethiopia on Saturday.

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
Donald Trump – Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

“His Excellency President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union is pleased to announce that following extensive consultations with the Heads of State of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) Negotiation Parties – His Excellency President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of the Arab Republic of Egypt, His Excellency Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and His Excellency Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok of the Republic of Sudan – the Trilateral Negotiations on the GERD will resume on Tuesday, 27 October 2020, following a seven-week break,” the presidency in South Africa said in a statement received by Today News Africa in Washington D.C. on Monday.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt

President Ramaphosa said he was pleased with “the commitment by the Parties to pursue negotiations guided by the spirit of cooperation, goodwill and compromise with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement,” according to the statement.

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“The resumption of the Trilateral Negotiations on the GERD under the auspices of the African Union is indicative of the strong political will and commitment by the leadership of the three Parties involved in the negotiations to the peaceful and amicable resolution of the GERD matter. It is a reaffirmation of the confidence that the Parties have in an African-led negotiations process, in line with the Pan-African maxim of African solutions to African problems, one of the cornerstones of the African Union,” Mr. Ramaphosa said.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (R) attends the opening session of the "Friends of Sudan" conference in the capital Khartoum on December 11, 2019, which aims to provide economic and political support for the transitional government in the country. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP) (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images)
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (R) attends the opening session of the “Friends of Sudan” conference in the capital Khartoum on December 11, 2019, which aims to provide economic and political support for the transitional government in the country. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP) (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images)

He reassured the three negotiating parties of “the African Union’s unremitting support and cooperation, and expressed his utmost confidence that the Parties will reach agreement on the remaining issues, including those related to the technical and legal aspects of the negotiations.”

“Without any doubt, the successful conclusion of the GERD negotiations will enhance and accelerate regional integration, while boosting cooperation and sustainable development in the region, for the benefit of Africa as a whole,” Ramaphosa added.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses 73rd Session of World Health Assembly President Cyril Ramaphosa and as the African Union Chair chairs virtual 73rd Session of the World Health Assembly (WHA). President Ramaphosa was invited to participate as a guest alongside the United Nations Secretary-General, H.E Mr Antonio Guterres; the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, H.E Angela Merkel; the President of the Republic of Korea, H.E. Mr Moon Jae-in, and the Prime Minister of Barbados, H.E. Mia Amor Mottley. Taken on May 18, 2020
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses 73rd Session of World Health Assembly President Cyril Ramaphosa and as the African Union Chair chairs virtual 73rd Session of the World Health Assembly (WHA). President Ramaphosa was invited to participate as a guest alongside the United Nations Secretary-General, H.E Mr Antonio Guterres; the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, H.E Angela Merkel; the President of the Republic of Korea, H.E. Mr Moon Jae-in, and the Prime Minister of Barbados, H.E. Mia Amor Mottley. Taken on May 18, 2020

On Saturday, Ehiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed warned that his country “will not cave in to aggression of any kind” after President Donald Trump suggested on Friday that Egypt could destroy a controversial Nile dam at the center of a long-running dispute involving Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

President Trump was on the phone on Friday with Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of the reporters at the White House in Washington DC to highlight the decision by Sudan and Israel to normalize relations, when the subject of the dam came up.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Hamdok of Sudan expressed hopes for a peaceful resolution to the dispute. But President trump added that “it’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way.”

“And I said it and I say it loud and clear – they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something,” Trump continued.

US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 23, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 23, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Abiy Ahmed did not address Mr. Trump’s comments directly, but there were little doubt what prompted his remarks.

In a statement, the Ethiopian PM vowed that “Ethiopia will not cave in to aggression of any kind.”

“Ethiopians have never kneeled to obey their enemies, but to respect their friends. We won’t do it today and in the future,” Abiy added. He said threats of any kind over the issue were “misguided, unproductive and clear violations of international law.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, left, with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gestures as they pose for a photo prior to their talks at the Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, left, with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gestures as they pose for a photo prior to their talks at the Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe) The Associated Press
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (right) with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gestures as they pose for a photo prior to their talks at the Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, left, with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gestures as they pose for a photo prior to their talks at the Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe) The Associated Press

In a separate statement, Ethiopia’s foreign minister said “The incitement of war between Ethiopia and Egypt from a sitting US President neither reflects the longstanding partnership and strategic alliance between Ethiopia and the United States nor is acceptable in international law governing interstate relations.”

The Trump administration announced last September that it would cut some aid to Ethiopia after it began filling the reservoir behind the dam in July.

In a separate statement, the foreign ministry said: “The incitement of war between Ethiopia and Egypt from a sitting US president neither reflects the longstanding partnership and strategic alliance between Ethiopia and the United States nor is acceptable in international law governing interstate relations.

The foreign minister summoned the US ambassador to Ethiopia to clarify President Trump’s comments.

Egypt relies on the dam for water supply and is concerned that supplies could be cut off as Ethiopia’s takes control of the flow of Africa’s largest water.

The $4 billion structure on the Blue Nile in Western Ethiopia will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric project once completed.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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