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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Qatar to hold Renaissance Dam talks as Egypt FM heads to Doha


The latest meeting over the ongoing Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam [GERD] dispute comes following statements suggesting Qatari mediation to end the feud.

Qatar is set to host an “emergency” Arab League session on the disputed GERD on Tuesday, on the sidelines of the consultative session, Cairo’s Ahram reported on Saturday.

Egypt’s Former Assistant Foreign Minister Mohamed Hegazy told Egyptian media that Cairo and Khartoum – both of which requested the meeting – will be briefing Arab foreign ministers at the session on “the dangers of leaving this strategic region, which is located at the east of the continent, to Ethiopian intransigence”.

“This matter requires the intensification of Egyptian and Sudanese efforts and their contacts with Arab and international parties to work to contain the scene that threatens the entire region,” he said.

The upcoming Arab League session is expected to be held at the level of foreign ministers in Doha.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will land in Qatar on Sunday ahead of the Arab League Consultative session on June 15th, UK-based Al Araby Al Jadeed reported, citing diplomatic sources.

On his first visit since the 2017 blockade, Shoukry is expected to hand Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani a letter from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to confirm the restoration of ties between the two countries.

GERD tensions

The GERD has long been the cause of a dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan since as far back as 2011.

The feud was triggered by Ethiopia’s decision to construct the dam on the Blue Nile, which it shares with Egypt and Sudan, in order to create a large hydroelectric project to supply its people with electricity.

Read also: Qatar postpones Arab League consultative session

The GERD would allow Ethiopia to double its electric capacity and further enable it to be more sufficient in electricity, while making it Africa’s biggest power exporter.

However, Egypt and Sudan have both voiced their concerns over its construction for reasons that have worries each country, including threats to water security and the flow of the dam.

Talks on reaching a middle ground between the three countries have stalled since April, with Cairo and Khartoum calling for an international agreement over the water flow. They also called on the US, UN, and the European Union [EU] to help reach a deal.

Qatar mediation

Previous statements and meetings have suggested possible Qatari mediation between the three countries to help end the dispute.

During his Sudan visit in May, Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said he discussed several issues with his Sudanese counterpart Maryam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, including tensions with Ethiopia over the GERD.

“It is likely that Qatar would mediate on the issue of the Renaissance Dam between Egypt and Sudan on the one hand, and Ethiopia on the other hand,” veteran Qatari journalist Jaber Al Harami previously told Al Araby Al Jadeed.

Read also: US envoy for the Horn of Africa to stop off in Qatar amid Renaissance dam dispute

US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman was also in Qatar earlier in June, and has in the last week visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kenya in efforts to reach a resolution to the GERD dispute.

The US official also met with Dr. Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, Doha’s Special Envoy of the Foreign Minister of the State for Counterterrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution on June 1st.

Resumption of Qatar-Egypt ties

Qatar’s ability to mediate between the countries involved in the dispute would solidify the return of its ties with Egypt following the 2017 blockade.

In an interview with Egypt’s Sada El Balad on Saturday, Shoukry said his country is now working towards “turning the page” on its feud with Qatar while expressing its willingness to gradually restore ties with Turkey.

“We implement what we agreed to in the Al-Ula Accord in all honesty. Egypt always adheres to its commitments under any legal framework. And we established a follow-up committee mechanism to remove all the impurities that affected the Egyptian-Qatari relations over the years of the boycott,” said Shoukry.

Commenting on Sheikh Tamim’s invitation to President Sisi in May, Shoukry said “the invite is appreciated, and there will be a diplomatic discussion of the appropriate timing for it and any other visit”.

He noted that the Qatari and Egyptian relations are also on a “positive path“.

Sources also told Al Araby Al Jadeed that Qatar has praised “changes in the Egyptian media discourse” towards Qatar during previous meetings.

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