Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia discuss contentious points of filling, operating GERD

Ahram Online , Monday 24 Aug 2020

The Egyptian delegation during Monday's meeting over the GERD (Photo: Ahram)

Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia resumed on Monday negotiations mediated by the African Union (AU) on the points of contention over the rules of filling and operating the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), said the Egyptian irrigation ministry.

The legal and technical committees of each of the three countries convened on Monday to negotiate the draft proposals compiled by the three sides last weekend.

A preliminary report on the points of contention and agreement between Cairo, Khartoum, Addis Ababa over the filling and operation of the GERD was compiled on Friday.

The legal and technical committees of the three sides are scheduled to work on the compiled report until next Friday with the target of reconciling viewpoints over the points of contention to reach a binding accord.

The committees will prepare a report to be submitted to South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current AU chair by the end of this week.

AU-sponsored tripartite talks over the multi-billion-dollar project were launched last month as the talks between the three countries had reached deadlock last year, and so did negotiations sponsored by the US and World Bank in February.

The AU talks stumbled from 27 July to 3 August after Ethiopia announced it reached the first year filling target by retaining 4.9 billion cubic metres of water in the dam’s reservoir despite the lack of accord on the rules of filling the controversial project with Egypt and Sudan.

The downstream countries are seeking a legally binding deal on the filling and operation of the dam.

The talks stumbled once again earlier this month after Sudan called for the suspension of meetings for internal consultations after Addis Ababa's proposal that contained guidelines for filling the GERD.

Egypt said the draft proposal put forward by Ethiopia lacked the guidelines for operating the dam, any elements indicating a binding deal, or a legal mechanism to settle disputes.

Sudan threatened earlier this month to withdraw from the talks if Ethiopia insisted on linking an agreement on the dam’s filling to a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.

The mega-dam, built 15 kilometres from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of contention between the three countries. Cairo fears the project will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the River Nile, while Sudan fears it could endanger the safety of its own dams.

Ethiopia says the massive project, which it hopes will make it Africa’s largest power exporter, is key to its development efforts.

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