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Egypt: Ethiopia rejecting ‘fundamental issues’ on Nile dam |NationalTribune.com

Egypt and Sudan have said that talks over a controversial dam on the Nile River will resume on Monday, amid Egyptian accusations that Ethiopia has sought to scrap “all agreements and deals” they had previously reached, and that “many fundamental issues” remain rejected by Ethiopia, the third party to the talks. The construction of the $4.6bn Grand…

Egypt: Ethiopia rejecting ‘fundamental issues’ on Nile dam |NationalTribune.com

Egypt and Sudan have said that talks over a controversial dam on the Nile River will resume on Monday, amid Egyptian accusations that Ethiopia has sought to scrap “all agreements and deals” they had previously reached, and that “many fundamental issues” remain rejected by Ethiopia, the third party to the talks.
The construction of the $4.6bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, which is more than 70 percent complete and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people, has been a contentious point among the three main Nile Basin countries.
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Sudan rejects Ethiopia proposal to sign Nile mega-dam agreement

Interactive: Saving the Nile

Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan to sign dam agreement by end of February

The three countries have been holding talks for years without reaching a deal. Those talks came to an acrimonious halt in February when Ethiopia rejected a US-crafted deal and accused the Trump administration of siding with Egypt.
Ethiopia wants to begin filling the dam’s reservoir in coming weeks, but Egypt has raised concerns that filling the reservoir behind the dam too quickly could significantly reduce the amount of Nile water available to Egypt.
After months of deadlock, Sudanese, Egyptian and Ethiopian water and irrigation ministers resumed talks last week, with observers attending from the US, the European Union and South Africa, which is the current head of the African Union.
Sudan’s irrigation ministry said Saturday’s talks focused on technical matters of the dam’s operation and the filling of its massive reservoir during rainy seasons and droughts. It said it will craft a draft paper based on Egyptian and Ethiopian notes to be discussed on Monday.
Egypt’s irrigation ministry said the June 9-13 talks revealed the differences that remain with Ethiopia.
These issues included Ethiopia’s “total” rejection of addressing technical issues related to “the mitigation measures for droughts and prolonged droughts and measures to address prolonged dry years,” the ministry statement said. Ethiopia rejected “the inclusion of a legally binding dispute resolution mechanism,” it said.
“Egypt reaffirmed that these are essential components in any agreement that relates to an existential matter that affects the lives of over 150 million citizens of Egypt and Sudan,” the statement said.

Ethiopian dam on Nile angers other countries

Ethiopia’s water and energy ministry said the talks have achieved progress and they will result in “finalising the process with a win-win outcome”.
It said the three countries reached an understanding on the first stage of filling and the approach to drought management rules.
But Mohammed el-Sebaei, a spokesman for Egypt’s irrigation ministry, said Ethiopia rejected a Sudanese proposal last week that could be a basis for negotiations between the three countries. Instead, Addis Ababa introduced a “worrisome” proposal that included its vision on the dam’s operation.
He said Ethiopia lacked the “political will” to compromise and wants Egypt and Sudan to “abandon their water rights and to recognise Ethiopia’s right to use the Blue Nile waters unilaterally and to fill and operate the Renaissance Dam in accordance with its vision”.
“The proposal is not legally and technically sound,” he told reporters in Cairo. “It is a clear attempt to impose a fait accompli on my downstream country.”
Egypt and Sudan rejected the Ethiopian proposal, el-Sebaei said.
The Ethiopian ministry said el-Sebaei’s comments were “regrettable”. It said that if the continuing negotiations failed it would be because of “Egypt’s obstinacy to maintain a colonial-based water allocation agreement that denies Ethiopia and all the upstream countries their natural and legitimate rights”.
The Blue Nile flows from Ethiopia into Sudan where it joins the White Nile near the capital, Khartoum, to form the Nile River. Eighty-five percent of Nile waters originate in Ethiopia from the Blue Nile, which is one of the Nile’s two main tributaries.
Egypt last week called for Ethiopia to “clearly declare that it had no intention of unilaterally filling the reservoir” and that a deal that was prepared by the US and the World Bank in February serves as the starting point of the resumed negotiations.
The US had crafted a draft deal in February after more than four months of talks, and said the final testing and filling of the dam “should not take place without an agreement”.
The deadlock over the dam has become increasingly bitter in recent months, with Egypt saying it would use “all available means” to defend “the interests” of its people.
Ethiopia’s deputy army chief on Friday said his country will strongly defend itself and will not negotiate its sovereignty over the disputed dam.

Trump calls Egypt’s Sisi, backs talks on disputed dam on Nile

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Egypt jails TikTok women influencers over ‘indecent’ content |NationalTribune.com

An Egyptian court has sentenced five female social media influencers to two years in jail each on charges of violating public morals. The verdict against Haneen Hossam, Mowada al-Adham and three others came after they had posted footage on video-sharing app TikTok. The ruling, which can be appealed, included a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds…

Egypt jails TikTok women influencers over ‘indecent’ content |NationalTribune.com

An Egyptian court has sentenced five female social media influencers to two years in jail each on charges of violating public morals.
The verdict against Haneen Hossam, Mowada al-Adham and three others came after they had posted footage on video-sharing app TikTok.
The ruling, which can be appealed, included a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($18,750) for each defendant, the source noted.
Haneen Hossam, 20, a Cairo University student, was charged for encouraging young women to meet men through a video app and build friendships with them, receiving a fee according to the number of followers watching these chats.
Mawada al-Adham, a TikTok and Instagram influencer with at least two million followers, was accused of publishing indecent photos and videos on social media.
The three other women were charged with helping Hossam and Al-Adham manage their social media accounts, according to the public prosecution.
Al-Adham’s lawyer Ahmed el-Bahkeri confirmed the sentences and said they would appeal the verdict.
Hossam was arrested in April after posting a three-minute clip telling her 1.3 million followers that girls could make money by working with her.

In May, authorities arrested Adham who had posted satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram.
Lawyer el-Bahkeri said the young women were facing separate charges over the sources of their funds.
‘Dangerous indicator’
Internet penetration has reached more than 40 percent of Egypt’s youthful population of more than 100 million.
“The verdict is shocking, though it was expected. We will see what happens on appeal,” said women’s rights lawyer Intissar al-Saeed.
“It is still a dangerous indicator … Regardless of the divergent views on the content presented by the girls on TikTok, it still is not a reason for imprisonment.”
Several rights activists took to social media to condemn the arrests.
A hashtag trending in Arabic that translates to “with the permission of the Egyptian family” was widely used in an online social media campaign to draw attention to the case and demanded the release of the women influencers.

(1) Today, you’ll find many tweeting #بعد_اذن_الاسرة_المصرية. They started at 1 pm (Cairo time) & will continue through the day to raise attention ahead of 2 expected verdicts this week for 3 Egyptian female TikTok users: Haneen Hosam & Mawada El-Adham (7/27) & Manar Samy (7/29). pic.twitter.com/fxoTvRewmN
— Mai El-Sadany (@maitelsadany) July 26, 2020

Two women today in Egypt got sentenced Two years and 300,000 EGP fine for just dancing and singing on #TikTok @ncwegypt is a complicit in this injustice by their silence. This is injustice , misogyny and a serious violation of digital freedom.#بعد_اذن_الاسرة_المصرية
— يسقط العالم (@Saldroite) July 27, 2020

Did you know Egypt still runs virginity tests? And that it’s chasing down women influencers on #TikTok instead of handling a pandemic? because chastity y’all!#بعد_اذن_الاسرة_المصرية https://t.co/49dqS9XoOn
— Nana (@Nabuels) July 27, 2020

A petition was also launched on Change.org demanding the release of the influencers with more than 1500 signatures.
“We are a group of women calling on state authorities to stop targeting women on TikTok. We call on the National Council for Women to provide legal support for Haneen Hossam, Mawada El-Adham, Menna AbdelAziz, Sherry Hanem, Nora Hesham, Manar Samy, Reenad Emad, Hadeer Hady, and Bassant Mohamed,” the petition said.
Egypt has cracked down in recent years on female singers and dancers for online content deemed too racy or suggestive.
Last month, an Egyptian court sentenced belly dancer Sama al-Masry to three years for inciting “debauchery” on social media after posting a TikTok dance video.

In 2018, a female singer was detained for “incitement to debauchery” after an online video clip which included sensual dance moves went viral.
The previous year, a female pop singer was sentenced to two years in prison on similar charges, also for a video deemed provocative. Her sentence was reduced to a year on appeal.
“The charges of spreading debauchery or violating family values are very loose … and its definition is broad,” said Saeed.
Egypt has, in recent years, enforced strict internet controls through laws allowing authorities to block websites deemed a threat to national security and to monitor personal social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers.
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Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan reach ‘major common understanding’ on dam |NationalTribune.com

Ethiopia’s prime minister said on Tuesday his country, Egypt, and Sudan reached a “major common understanding which paves the way for a breakthrough agreement” on a significant dam project that has led to sharp regional tensions and fears of military confrontation. Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a serious threat to vital water supplies, while…

Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan reach ‘major common understanding’ on dam |NationalTribune.com

Ethiopia’s prime minister said on Tuesday his country, Egypt, and Sudan reached a “major common understanding which paves the way for a breakthrough agreement” on a significant dam project that has led to sharp regional tensions and fears of military confrontation.
Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a serious threat to vital water supplies, while Ethiopia considers it essential for its electrification and development.
The statement by Abiy Ahmed’s office came as new satellite images show the water level in the reservoir behind the nearly completed $4.6bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at its highest in at least four years.
Last week Ethiopia acknowledged that water was gathering in the dam’s reservoir, though officials said this was a “natural” part of the construction process.
Ethiopia has said the rising water is from heavy rains, and the statement said, “it has become evident over the past two weeks in the rainy season that the [dam’s] first-year filling is achieved and the dam under construction is already overtopping.”

Press release on the follow-up Extraordinary Meeting of the Bureau of the African Union Assembly on the #GERD. pic.twitter.com/TdhLEnz49l
— Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia (@PMEthiopia) July 21, 2020

Ethiopia had said it would begin filling the reservoir of the dam, Africa’s largest, this month even without a deal as the rainy season floods the Blue Nile. But the new statement said the three countries’ leaders have agreed to pursue “further technical discussions on the filling … and proceed to a comprehensive agreement”.
The statement did not give details on Tuesday’s discussions, mediated by current African Union chair and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, or what had been agreed upon.
But the talks among the country’s leaders showed the critical importance placed on finding a way to resolve tensions over the storied Nile River, a lifeline for all involved.

A general view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) near Guba in Ethiopia [File: AFP]

Ethiopia says the colossal dam offers a critical opportunity to pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and become a major power exporter.
Downstream Egypt, which depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and booming population of 100 million with fresh water, asserts it poses an existential threat.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi stressed Egypt’s “sincere will to continue to achieve progress over the disputed issues”, a spokesman’s statement said. It said the leaders agreed to “give priority to developing a binding legal commitment regarding the basis for filling and operating the dam”.
Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas told reporters in the capital, Khartoum, the three leaders “agreed to continue their negotiations to overcome the sticking points.” 

He said the negotiations would proceed according to the basic principle of the dam’s “fair and reasonable use”, adding once the agreement has been solidified, Ethiopia will retain the right to amend some figures relating to the dam’s operation during drought periods. 
“There are other sticking points, but if we agree on this basic principle, the other points will automatically be solved,” he said.
Both Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Ethiopia’s leader called Tuesday’s meeting “fruitful”.
Interactive: Saving the Nile
Negotiators have said key questions remain about how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes. Ethiopia rejects binding arbitration at the final stage.
“It is absolutely necessary that Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, with the support of the African Union, come to an agreement that preserves the interest of all parties,” Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU commission, said on Twitter, adding the Nile “should remain a source of peace”.
Years of talks with a variety of mediators have failed to produce a solution.
Kevin Wheeler, a researcher at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, said fears of any immediate water shortages “are not justified at this stage at all, and the escalating rhetoric is more due to changing power dynamics in the region.”
However, “if there were a drought over the next several years, that certainly could become a risk,” he said.
The years-long dispute pits Ethiopia’s desire to become a major power exporter and development engine against Egypt’s concern the dam will significantly curtail its water supply if filled too quickly.
Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the Nile for its fresh-water supplies, sees the dam as an existential threat. Sudan has long been caught between the competing interests.
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Egypt legislators vote on deploying troops to Libya |NationalTribune.com

Egypt’s parliament authorised the deployment of troops outside the country on Monday after the president threatened military action against Turkish-backed forces in neighbouring Libya. The parliament unanimously approved “the deployment of members of the Egyptian armed forces on combat missions outside Egypt’s borders to defend Egyptian national security … against criminal armed militias and foreign…

Egypt legislators vote on deploying troops to Libya |NationalTribune.com

Egypt’s parliament authorised the deployment of troops outside the country on Monday after the president threatened military action against Turkish-backed forces in neighbouring Libya.
The parliament unanimously approved “the deployment of members of the Egyptian armed forces on combat missions outside Egypt’s borders to defend Egyptian national security … against criminal armed militias and foreign terrorist elements”, it said in a statement.
The deployment would be made on a “western front” – a likely reference to western neighbour Libya. The move could bring Egypt and Turkey – which support rival sides in Libya’s chaotic proxy war – into direct confrontation.
Egypt’s House of Representatives, packed with supporters of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, approved the plan after a closed-door session where deputies discussed “threats faced by the state” from the west, where Egypt shares a porous desert border with war-torn Libya.

Libya gov’t vows response after base hit by ‘foreign air force’

Stephanie Williams, acting head of the UN support mission in Libya, on Monday called for an “immediate ceasefire … to spare the 125,000 civilians who remain in harm’s way and for an end to the blatant violations of the UN arms embargo”.
Her comments came following her meeting on Sunday with the president of neighbouring Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
‘Putschist Haftar’
Turkey, meanwhile, demanded an “immediate” end to the support for rebel commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya after trilateral talks held in Ankara between Libyan, Turkish, and Maltese officials on Monday.
“It is essential that all kind of help and support given to putschist Haftar – which prohibits ensuring Libya’s peace, tranquillity, security, and territorial integrity – ends immediately,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said.
Haftar’s backers should “stop supporting an unrealistic and wrong project”, the UN-recognised Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga said.
Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia have been backing Haftar’s eastern-based forces in the conflict, while Turkey supports the GNA.
An Egyptian intervention would further destabilise oil-rich Libya.

Egypt’s president warned in June that any attack on Sirte or the inland al-Jufra airbase would prompt Cairo to intervene militarily, purportedly to protect its western border with Libya.
The GNA denounced Egypt’s threat of military intervention in the North African nation, labelling it a “declaration of war”.
Qatar’s state minister for defence affairs met on Monday with the Turkish defence minister and Libya’s minister of interior to discuss the latest developments in Libya, Qatar’s defence ministry said.
Sirte lies 800km (500 miles) from the Egyptian border with Libya’s most important crude export terminals in between.Cairo sees the city as a “red line” and has called for talks between Libya’s rival factions. Ankara and the GNA have called on Haftar to withdraw from the city and negotiate a ceasefire.
Regional proxy war
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.
The country is now split between a government in the east, allied with Haftar, and one in Tripoli, in the west, recognised by the United Nations.
The conflict has escalated into a regional proxy war fuelled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into the country.
The United States has grown increasingly concerned about Moscow’s growing influence in Libya, where hundreds of Russian mercenaries backed a failed attempt by Haftar’s forces to capture Tripoli.
In a call on Monday with US President Donald Trump, el-Sisi emphasised Egypt’s aim to “prevent further deterioration of security in Libya”, according to a statement from the Egyptian presidential spokesman. It said the two leaders agreed on maintaining a ceasefire and avoiding a military escalation in Libya.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, centre, commander Khalifa Haftar, right, and Libyan parliament speaker Aguila Saleh arrive for a news conference in the capital Cairo [File: Egyptian Presidency/AFP]

Anas el-Gomati, director at the Tripoli-based Sadeq Institute, said Egypt is concerned about losing its sway in Libya.

“If the GNA and Turkey want to move forward then Egypt is really worried about losing all of its influence and Haftar losing control of the vital oil resources. So it’s really about trying to create all these theatrics, smoke and mirrors so to speak, in order to get Trump to make a phone to [Turkish President] Erdogan. This is phone-call diplomacy at its worst, not its finest,” el-Gomati told Al Jazeera.
Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram daily reported on Sunday the vote in Parliament was intended to mandate el-Sisi to “intervene militarily in Libya to help defend the western neighbour against Turkish aggression”.
Last week, el-Sisi hosted dozens of tribal leaders loyal to Haftar in Cairo, where he repeated that Egypt would “not stand idly by in the face of moves that pose a direct threat to security”.

Libya’s eastern-based parliament that supports Haftar also urged el-Sisi to send troops.
GNA’s upper hand
Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive to take Tripoli from the GNA in April last year, but the campaign stalemated after reaching the outskirts of the Libyan capital.
The LNA suffered a blow last month when GNA forces – with Turkish air and logistics support – pushed it back and gained the upper hand in the fighting.
The Tripoli forces retook the capital’s airport, all main entrance and exit points to the city, and a string of key towns in the region. GNA troops pushed on eastward vowing to also retake Sirte, which Haftar captured earlier this year.
Seizing the strategic city would open the door for the Turkish-backed forces to advance even further eastward and potentially take vital oil installations, terminals and fields now under Haftar’s control.
After the GNA signed security and maritime agreements with Turkey last year, Ankara’s military support – including drones – helped it re-impose control over Libya’s northwest.
Anas el-Gomati, director at the Tripoli-based Sadeq Institute, said Egypt is concerned about losing its sway in Libya.
“If the GNA and Turkey want to move forward then Egypt is really worried about losing all of its influence and Haftar losing control of the vital oil resources. So it’s really about trying to create all these theatrics, smoke and mirrors so to speak, in order to get Trump to make a phone to [Turkish President] Erdogan. This is phone-call diplomacy at its worst, not its finest,” el-Gomati told Al Jazeera.

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