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


Analysts believe that Qatar may be playing a mediating role in the decade-long dam dispute between Sudan and Egypt on one side and Ethiopia on the other.

US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman is set to travel to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kenya this week in efforts to reach a resolution to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam [GERD] dispute, state department announced on Tuesday.

Feltman is travelling from May 31st to June 6th and is expected to meet senior officials in all four countries to “discuss cooperative approaches to supporting a stable and prosperous Horn of Africa”, with a possible resolution to the GERD feud “that is acceptable to all parties”.

The US official’s visit kicked off in Qatar on June 1, where he 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.

The announcement comes a week following a statement made by Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani during a visit to Sudan, in which he said he discussed the dam dispute with his Sudanese counterpart Maryam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi.

The foreign minister’s statements hinted at possible mediation efforts by the Gulf state given its known role as a regional and international negotiator.

Read also: Qatar’s FM meets senior Ethiopian official amid ongoing dam dispute

“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 told Al Araby Al Jadeed, responding to a question over the Gulf State’s mediation in the feud.

Qatar’s foreign minister also held a meeting last week with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Redwan Hussien to discuss the importance of resolving Ethiopia’s differences peacefully and diplomatically.

A decade-long dispute

The GERD has long been the cause of a dispute between the Ethiopian side and Egypt and Sudan since as far 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.

The GERD would allow Ethiopia to double its electric capacity while making it Africa’s biggest power exporter.

However, Egypt and Sudan have both voiced their concerns over its construction for reasons that have unsettled each country.

On one hand, Cairo heavily relies on the Nile’s waters for household and commercial use, including irrigation, and believes the construction of the dam would lead to a drastic decline in its water security.

Khartoum, on the other hand, is concerned over the GERD’s safety and the possible effect its construction would have on the water flow of the Nile to Sudan.

Negotiations regarding reaching a resolution between the three countries are still underway, but concerns remain over the filling of the dam.

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.

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