Egypt will not accept any incomprehensive deal over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that may disregard Egyptian concerns or fail to resolve major differences, Egypt's irrigation ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday.
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have been engaged in online talks sponsored by the African Union for nearly a week with the aim of reaching an accord over the mega-dam on the Blue Nile.
Ethiopia announced it will begin filling the GERD reservoir this month.
The Egyptian delegation told observers at the talks that Cairo “will not accept any incomplete phrasing [of a deal] that would not take into account Egyptian concerns or postpone discussion of contentious issues between the three countries,” the ministry said, adding that Egypt has presented multiple alternatives that had been rejected by Ethiopia.
The ministry added that Ethiopia's continued adherence to its “rigid” stances on both the technical and legal aspects of the differences over the hydropower project shall “reduce the chances of reaching an agreement.”
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia resumed talks last week in response to a call by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current AU chairperson. Observers representing the EU, the US, the AU and South Africa are attending the talks.
The delegation of each country on Wednesday held bilateral meetings with the observers to discuss points of contention.
The Egyptian negotiators voiced their concerns about Ethiopia's failure to address rules regulating the filling and operation of the GERD during drought, prolonged drought, and dry years.
The fundamental points of differences also include the rules of the re-filling following prolonged drought, and the annual operation of the giant dam, which is being built near the Sudanese border.
Egypt is also concerned about future projects on the Blue Nile, a main tributary of the Nile, and demands binding dispute settlement mechanisms, things that Addis Ababa has refused to include in a deal.
Egypt says these points represent the “backbone of the technical and legal parts of the deal” for Cairo.
Ethiopia is “holding on to the unilateral change of the operating rules [of the dam] in a unilateral manner and with an individual will, and these points remain a source of contention until now,” the ministry said.
A government source speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly earlier this week said “the possibility of a deal emerging is unlikely”, while a negotiator in the Egyptian team said “no deal is better than a bad deal — we cannot sign to a deal that would compromise a strategic interest like water security.”
The talks are scheduled to resume on Thursday before a final report on the outcomes is submitted to the African Union.
Egypt's irrigation ministry spokesman Mohamed El-Sebai earlier said the talks may continue into Friday or Saturday.