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Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia preparing preliminary draft proposals on rules of filling, operating GERD

The three countries are working on a draft report to reconcile viewpoints over the points of contention. The report will be submitted to the AU chairman on 28 August

Ahram Online , Saturday 22 Aug 2020
GERD (Photo: Reuters)
GERD. Reuters
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A preliminary draft report of the points of contention and agreement between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was compiled following a meeting on 21 August between the three countries' technical and legal teams, said a statement released by the Egyptian Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

Each team comprised one member from the technical committee and another from the legal committee.

The meeting on Friday is part of the negotiations mediated by the African Union (AU) and is based on the outcomes of the AU mini-summit on 21 July and the meeting of foreign and irrigation ministers of the three countries on 16 August.

A trilateral meeting of the ministers of irrigation was held following the sub-committee's meeting to continue negotiations towards reaching a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the mega-dam, according to the statement.

The meeting was attended by observers and experts from the AU, US, EU Commission, and AU Commission.

The three ministers agreed to set one week -- from 21 to 28 August -- for the legal and technical committees representing Cairo, Khartoum, and Addis Ababa to work on the compiled report to reconcile viewpoints over the points of contention to reach a binding accord.

On 28 August, the sub-committee will submit a report to South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current AU chair.

AU-sponsored tripartite talks over the multi-billion-dollar project were launched last month in the attendance of the US and EU. Talks between the three countries had reached deadlock last year, and so did negotiations sponsored by the US and World Bank in February.

The AU talks stumbled from 27 July to 3 August after Ethiopia announced it reached the first year filling target by retaining 4.9 billion cubic metres of water in the dam’s reservoir despite the lack of accord on the rules of filling the controversial project with Egypt and Sudan.

The downstream countries are seeking a legally binding deal on the filling and operation of the dam.

The talks stumbled once again earlier this month after Sudan called for the suspension of meetings for internal consultations after Addis Ababa's proposal that contained guidelines for filling the GERD.

Egypt said the draft proposal put forward by Ethiopia lacked the guidelines for operating the dam, any elements indicating a binding deal, or a legal mechanism to settle disputes.

Sudan threatened earlier this month to withdraw from the talks if Ethiopia insisted on linking an agreement on the dam’s filling to a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.

The mega-dam, built 15 kilometres from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of contention between the three countries. Cairo fears the project will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the River Nile, while Sudan fears it could 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. 

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