Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia released a joint statement on the latest developments in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations on Monday which outlined in detail the path for the second round of talks, set to take place in Khartoum and Addis Ababa during the next few weeks.
The statement, which came on back of a Washington meeting of foreign and irrigation ministers from the three countries alongside observers from the US administration and the World Bank, determined specific points to be discussed during the next two meetings, before the parties reconvene in Washington on January 13 to review the results of the meetings.
The countries agreed that the strategic direction of the next two technical meetings should be the development of technical rules and guidelines for the filling and operation of the GERD, the definition of drought conditions, and the drought mitigation measures to be taken, in a statement that set out new details on the topics of negotiation.
The statement said that the three ministers recognise that there are substantial benefits to all three countries in developing rules and guidelines to address drought conditions.
"The rules and guidelines will include drought mitigation measures based upon the natural flow in the given year and water release rates from the GERD," the statement added.
It also noted that the implementation of these technical rules and guidelines for the filling and operation of the GERD will be undertaken by Ethiopia, and may be adjusted by the three countries, in accordance with the hydrological conditions of the given year.
The joint statement touches on the debate over the duration of time of the filling of the dam’s reservoir, mentioning detailed points about the contention among the three parties.
After the first meeting in Addis Ababa, some Ethiopian media outlets claimed that Egypt and Sudan had accepted its proposal to start filling the dam in June 2020 while Sudan's Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said that Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have shown "consensus" regarding filling the dam over a period of up to seven years.
Egypt has not provided details on the outcome of the first two meetings. However, a statement issued by irrigation ministry after the first meeting said that the talks had involved technical discussions on the rules for filling and operating the GERD.
Another statement issued after the second meeting said the meetings concluded with an agreement to continue consultations and technical discussions on controversial issues.
Monday's statement signals a new phase in the talks by focusing on aforementioned detailed points.
Former Egyptian irrigation minister Mohamed Nasr Allam said that this step presents a success in moving the negotiations to the right track, especially as this is what Egypt has called for since day one.
"This statement doesn't mean the convergence of reaching solutions; this depends on the resilience of the negotiators," he added.
Goodwill and transparency
Meanwhile, in a separate statement on Monday, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Ati stressed the importance of the engagement of the three countries in the GERD negotiations with goodwill and transparency to achieve the common interest.
The statement also stressed the necessity of ensuring the full implementation of the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries.
The Washington meeting was a part of an agreement reached in November that the three countries hold four meetings to resolve technical issues on the filling and operation of the dam. The agreement also stipulates that two meetings be held in the US to follow up on the negotiation process.
The first round of negotiations was held in Ethiopia on 15-16 November and the second in Cairo on 2-3 December.
Ethiopia began building the mega-dam in 2011 in a bid to provide electricity to more than half of its population and to become the continent's biggest power exporter.
Egypt fears that the speed of filling the Ethiopian dam will adversely diminish its share of Nile water, which makes up 85 percent of the country’s water resources.