GERD negotiations resume; Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia work on timetable, framework for renewed talks

Ahram Online , Tuesday 27 Oct 2020

According to the irrigation ministry, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss how to relaunch the GERD talks

irrigation Ministry
(Photo courtesy of the the Ministry of Irrigation spokesman official Facebook page)

Khartoum will call for a new one-week round of talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which would revive negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, the Egyptian irrigation ministry announced on Tuesday.

According to the ministry, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss how to relaunch the GERD talks.

"Egypt asserted during the meeting the importance of implementing the provisions of the AU commission office regarding reaching a binding legal agreement on the filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam that would achieve the common interests of the three countries and secure their water needs," a statement by the Egyptian irrigation ministry said.

Sudan, as the chair of this new round of talks, will host one-week-long talks in order to continue revising a draft agreement that the three countries began to prepare in the last round of talks to determine a better way to manage negotiations in the upcoming period, the statement added.

The foreign affairs and irrigation ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan attended the teleconference, which was headed by the South African foreign minister.

According to the Egyptian foreign ministry, observers from the AU, the EU and the United States attended the meeting.

Negotiations were suspended at the end of last August, after technical and legal disputes before President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the current chair of the African Union, had announced on Monday the resume of the talks.

Sudan says experts, observers need to play bigger role

Sudan affirmed that adherence to the negotiation process is the only means of reaching a satisfactory agreement on the GERD, according to a statement published by Sudanese news agency SUNA.

Khartoum said that the way in which previous negotiations were conducted led to a dead end, which is why Sudan suggests giving experts and observers a larger role in the talks in order to reach a compromise.

The statement added that the three countries agreed to work throughout this week to put in place a clear and detailed agenda and a specific timetable for the path for the negotiations, as well as a list of the conclusions that should be reached with the aid of observers and experts. A report should be submitted to the AU in one week on the new guidelines for the talks, which have been stalled since August.

Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas confirmed that there are legal and technical points of contention that still persist, including the binding nature of the agreement, the mechanism for resolving disputes and the relationship between a new agreement and other agreements involving the Nile water.

Abbas added that there needs to be a political will from the three countries in order to reach a binding and satisfying agreement.

Ethiopia confirms participation

According to a statement released by the foreign ministry of Ethiopia, the next technical meeting is expected to be held in the coming few days.

The resumption of negotiations comes a few days after US President Donald Trump laid the blame squarely on Ethiopia for the failure of the negotiations and said that Cairo's concerns in the dispute are legitimate.

In response, Ethiopia summoned US Ambassador to Addis Ababa Mike Raynor over Trump’s comments, which Ethiopia described as an “incitement of war."

The first filling of the controversial dam took place this summer, despite Ethiopia not having reached a binding agreement with its downstream neighbours.

Egypt, which relies heavily on the Nile River as its main water supply, fears the massive hydropower project will significantly cut its crucial water supply, while Sudan fears it could endanger the safety of its own dams seeing it is built 15 kilometres from their border with Ethiopia.

On Tuesday morning, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan stressed that their countries seek a binding deal over the filling and operation of the GERD.

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