Ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed on Wednesday to reconvene on 28-29 January in Washington to finalise an agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the US Treasury Department said, adding that technical and legal talks will be held until then.
Following three days of talks in Washington mediated by the Treasury and the World Bank, the ministers agreed that the filling of the $4 billion dam will be undertaken in stages while taking into account the potential impact on downstream reservoirs, the joint statement by the US Treasury, which hosted the meetings, said.
The initial filling of the dam, which is expected to begin in July, will achieve a level of 595 meters above sea level and early electricity generation, "while providing appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan in case of severe droughts," the statement said.
The subsequent stages of the filling and the long-term operation of the 6,000-megawatt dam will be done according to a mechanism that "determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of GERD", and addresses measures for Egypt and Sudan during "prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought."
Egypt had said earlier that the main points of contention with Ethiopia were drought limits and the operation of the giant dam under different hydrological conditions.
The Ministers also agreed that there is a "shared responsibility" of the three countries in managing drought and prolonged drought, the statement added.
Egypt, a downstream country, is concerned that the dam will significantly diminish its water supplies from the Nile River, on which it is almost entirely dependent for fresh water.
Four rounds of technical talks over the mega project, which is around 70% complete, were held as part of the roadmap agreed upon during US-brokered meetings in Washington in November to end the dispute.
Last week, the three countries have failed to reach an agreement on technical issues including the filling of the dam, with Cairo and Addis Ababa exchanging blame for the deadlock.
Ethiopia said Egypt is trying to reinforce “self-claimed sole ownership of the Nile waters" with a proposal of filling the dam over a period of 12-21 years.
Egypt slammed the claim as “deliberately misleading”, saying its proposal suggests filing the dam within six-seven years during normal conditions of the flow of the Blue Nile.