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Ethiopia denies it began filling GERD reservoir: Sudan

Ethiopia says the swelling of the dam's reservoir is caused by rains flooding the Blue Nile

Ahram Online , Thursday 16 Jul 2020
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FILE PHOTO: A handout satellite image shows a closeup view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia July 12, 2020 (Photo: Reuters)
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Ethiopia informed Sudan on Thursday it has not started filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Sudan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Ethiopia’s charge d’affaires in Khartoum told a senior Sudanese foreign ministry official that his country didn't close the dam gates nor retained water inside its reservoir, the statement added.

The Ethiopian official said the swelling of the dam's reservoir is caused by rains flooding the Blue Nile.

“Due to the rainy season, water gathered naturally in the dam’s lake,” he was quoted as saying.

The Ethiopian official’s remarks came during a meeting with the director of the neighbouring countries department at the Sudanese foreign ministry Babiker Al-Siddiq earlier on Thursday.

He reiterated his country's commitment to ongoing negotiations mediated by the African Union with downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan.

The Sudanese official also said Khartoum is committed to the AU talks and refuses any unilateral measure, particularly with regard to the safety of operation of the Sudanese Roseires Dam, which is located close to the GERD.

There has been contradictory reports on Wednesday over whether Addis Ababa had started filling the dam’s reservoir.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Ethiopian State TV quoted the country’s water minister Seleshi Bekele as saying that the country has started to fill the GERD’s reservoir. Hours later, however, the minister denied that the filling process has started.

The contradictory statements came amid satellite captured images of the Ethiopian dam showing its swelling reservoir amid other reports that Sudan has recorded a decline in the water level of the Blue Nile coming from Ethiopia.

Ethiopia later denied that it had begun the filling process and the Ethiopian State TV apologised for what it described as a “misinterpretation” of statements made by the country’s water minister.

Egypt requested an urgent explanation from Addis Ababa concerning the controversy.

Ethiopia has repeatedly said it would start filling the dam’s reservoir this month, with or without an accord with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.

Both countries have warned about the consequences of Addis Ababa taking any unilateral action on the project, including beginning the filling process.

The Ethiopian contradiction came two days after the end of the latest round of GERD talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, which were held under the auspices of the African Union and attended by observers from the European Union, the United States and the World Bank.

After 11 days of online talks that started on 3 July 2020, the three countries announced that no agreement was reached concerning the major points of disagreement, despite Sudan and Ethiopia indicating that there was limited progress in the talks.

The three countries presented their final reports on the progress of the talks to President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, the current chairman of the African Union.

Ramaphosa is expected to hold a mini-summit of union officials and heads of member states to discuss the next steps.

Cairo, which relies on the Nile for 95 percent of its fresh water, fears the dam will significantly reduce its share of water, especially during the filling stages through periods of drought and dry years.

Khartoum has said that the safety of its Roseires dam will be directly impacted by the operation of the GERD, which is located around 100km from the Sudanese dam. Ethiopia, on the other hand, says the project is key to its development efforts. 

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