Renewed talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over a giant hydroelectric dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile will be postponed for one week following a request by Sudan, the three countries said in separate statements on Monday.
Negotiations to reach a deal over the filling and operation of the nearly $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) resumed one week following Cairo's call for a suspension of meetings after Addis Ababa put forward a new draft proposal that lacked “operating guidelines" or any legally binding obligations.
"It has been agreed to postpone the meeting for a week for consultations to take place between the ministers to determine the agenda and the level of participation in the next meeting," Egypt's irrigation ministry said in a statement.
This came after a meeting between officials from three countries was convened earlier on Monday.
During the meeting, the "Sudanese delegation requested talks be put off for a week to continue internal consultations," Sudan's water ministry said in a statement.
The three countries are scheduled to reconvene on 17 August, Ethiopia's Water, Irrigation and Energy Ministry, adding that Addis Ababa "remains committed to the tripartite negotiations as a negotiated agreement is the only option."
Last week, Egypt said the Ethiopian draft on filling guidelines lacked rules on the operation of the dam, any elements indicating a binding deal, or a legal mechanism to settle disputes.
Sudan threatened to withdraw from the talks, sponsored by the African Union, if Ethiopia insisted on linking an agreement on the dam’s filling to negotiating a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.
Addis Ababa announced last month it had achieved its first-year target for the filling of the dam’s reservoir due to the rainfall season. The move was condemned by Cairo and Khartoum -- both have sought a legally binding agreement before the dam was filled.
Last week, Egypt sent a letter to South Africa, which currently chairs the AU, reaffirming Cairo’s rejection of Ethiopia’s “unilateral” initial filling of the GERD and the new Ethiopian draft proposal.
In its letter, Cairo said the Ethiopian proposal violates directives by the AU in July calling on the three countries to swiftly finalise a legally binding agreement.
However, Addis Ababa said on Monday the proposal is in line with the communiqué of the AU assembly Bureau dated 24 July and the understanding reached by the three nations' irrigation ministers during their meeting on 3 August.
South Africa last week called on the three countries to "remain engaged" in the negotiations which it said were at a "critical phase".
The mega-dam, built 15 kilometres from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of tension between the three nations. Cairo fears the project will significantly cut its water supply from the River Nile, while Sudan fears it will endanger the safety of its own dams.
Ethiopia says the massive project, which it hopes will make it Africa’s largest power exporter, is key to its development efforts.