The first meeting of the Tripartite National Committee (TNC) on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was held on September 20-22 in Addis Ababa. The TNC, with four members from each of the three countries will follow up and conduct the studies recommended by the International Panel of Experts which previously made its assessment of the dam. This first Tripartite National Committee meeting was also attended by the Water Ministers of the three countries and their teams of advisors. The Ministers also had the chance to visit the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Monday (September 21st) and see the ongoing activities there for themselves.
After the visit to the Dam, Mutaz Musa Abdalla Salim, Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources and Electricity, said Khartoum strongly believed the dam project would have multiple benefits for his country and for the region. He expressed the hope that the next round of talks would even be more successful. Dr. Hossam Moghazi, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation said the hydropower dam project should not be a source of confrontation but rather a means of regional integration and economic partnership.
In a joint statement issued at the end of the TNC meeting, the three Water Ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan said they had witnessed the successful deliberations and accomplishments of the first meeting. They said the TNC meeting “will forge and strengthen trust and confidence among the three countries.” They stated their belief that the meeting was “a good start and step forward to discharge our responsibilities and the expectations of our people and the region.”
The joint statement said the three Ministers believed that the deliberations and successful conclusion of the first TNC meeting would lay “the foundation for professional and responsible cooperation.” The ministers agreed to hold the meetings of the TNC on a rotation basis. The next round of the Tripartite National Technical Committee will be held next month in Cairo, when the three countries are expected to consider which international consultancy firm will be hired to carry out the studies and other relevant issues.
In a press statement, Ethiopia’s Water, Irrigation and Energy Minister, Alemayehu Tegenu said “Ethiopia believes the deliberations and successful conclusion of the TNC on the terms of reference and rules of procedure during this three days meeting will lay a foundation to deal with the tasks assigned to it professionally and responsibly.” He added that Ethiopia, from the outset has believed cooperation would strengthen trust and confidence among the people and governments of the three countries, and the Nile basin states at large, in handling Nile issues.
The Tripartite National Committee was set up following the fourth Tripartite Ministerial meeting between the Water Ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, August 25-26, in Khartoum. This fourth tripartite meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was attended by Professor Dr. Hossam Moghazi, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation of Egypt; Alemayehu Tegenu, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy of Ethiopia; and Ambassador Mutaz Musa Abdella Salim, Minister of Water Resources and Electricity of Sudan. They agreed to establish a committee to conduct the two additional studies recommended by the International Panel of experts (IPoE). A Tripartite National Committee (TNC), of four experts from each country, would conduct the two studies recommended by the IPoE. These covered a Water Resources/ Hydropower System Simulation Model and a Transboundary Environmental and Socio – Economic Impact Assessment. The TNC will discharge its work according to the time table set by an International Consultancy firm which will be hired and will conclude its studies within six months from September 1st. At that fourth Tripartite Ministerial meeting, the technical teams of Egypt and Ethiopia also held discussions at which the Ethiopian team presented details of the updates of the dam design to address the concerns of downstream countries on ongoing developments. The technical teams agreed to continue consultations on relevant technical matters in the future.
During the meeting the Water Ministers also agreed on the nomination of International Experts who would be able to provide technical opinions in case there should be disagreements among the ministers over the outcome of the two studies that will be done by the TNC. At the end of the Khartoum meeting Minister Alemayehu Tegenu said the meeting had enhanced confidence between the three countries. He confirmed that Ethiopia understood the concerns of the Sudanese and Egyptians. He also extended an invitation to the Egyptian and Sudanese ministers to visit the site of the dam.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, in an interview with the Turkish News Agency, Anadolu News Agency a week ago, summed up the progress being made on the issue of the Nile dam, noting that the relationship between Ethiopia and Egypt was longstanding and adding “we want to continue building on our good relations.” He said there had been difficulties during previous regimes, under Presidents Mubarak and Morsi. They had tried to destabilize Ethiopia using rebel groups that are supported and nurtured by Eritrea. However, the Prime Minister said, his discussions with President El-Sisi showed he was committed to relations between Ethiopia and Egypt, adding that he himself was very much committed to having good relations with Egypt.” He said it was necessary to have win-win relations to utilize the common resource of the Nile. He said “That resource is common to all of us. Ethiopia has to benefit, and Egypt also has to benefit. I think we have no reason to harm Egypt, and Egypt has no reason to deny our right to development.” He added, that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a dam of great economic significance and “not only for Ethiopia, but also for other countries – Sudan, Egypt and other African countries as well.”
* Originally published on the weekly bulletin of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, on Sept. 26, 2014.