Ethiopia wants a non-binding agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) with Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said on Friday, despite statements to the contrary by the African Union and Sudan.
“The Ethiopian government does not look for a binding agreement concerning the current talks about GERD, only a guidelines agreement which can be revised at any time,” he said, according to Emirati news site Al-Ain, adding that the recent round of talks achieved “huge closeness” on the technical issues, while there were legal differences that need more negotiation.
During a press conference in Addis Ababa, Mufti stated that Ethiopia could fill the dam in three years due to the heavy rainy seasons, but it preferred to extend the filling period to seven years in order to calm the fears of downstream countries Egypt and Sudan, and to reach an agreement that serves the best interests of the three countries.
Earlier on Friday, the African Union issued a statement on behalf of the AU chairman, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, on the online mini-summit held on the GERD on Tuesday.
In the statement, the AU said that Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia had welcomed its expert report on the issues. The statement also made it clear that the heads of states and governments “agreed on the process of finalising negotiations on the text of a binding agreement on the filling and operation of GERD, which include a comprehensive agreement on future development on the Blue Nile river.”
On Thursday, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok stated that reaching a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a necessity for paving the way for future cooperation on the Nile.
On Tuesday, the leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed to resume technical talks under the auspices of the AU.
Egypt has also agreed with Ethiopia and Sudan to prioritise reaching a binding deal on the filling and operating of the GERD, according to a statement by the Egyptian presidency on Tuesday.
On the same night, the Ethiopian prime minister announced that GERD had completed the filling of the dam’s reservoir scheduled for this year.
Egypt has voiced concern over Ethiopia's refusal to agree on rules regulating the filling and operation of the GERD during drought and dry years.
Cairo is also concerned about future projects on the Blue Nile, a main tributary of the Nile, and demands binding dispute settlement mechanisms, which Addis Ababa has refused to include in a deal.
Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 95 percent of its fresh water, fears the dam will significantly reduce the river’s flow, especially during the filling stages through periods of drought or dry years. Ethiopia, on the other hand, says the project is key to its development.