FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. REUTERS
Negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the filling and operations of the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are set to resume on Sunday, days after Khartoum called for a new one-week round of talks aimed to revive the stalled talks.
According to an official statement released by the Sudanese irrigation ministry on Saturday, talks will be held on Sunday between the irrigation ministries of the three countries under the African Union (AU) sponsorship.
The announcement comes days after Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed Tuesday on Khartoum hosting one-week-long of talks to set a time frame and framework for the renewed talks, and outcomes to be reached in a different manner to previous rounds.
Egypt, which relies heavily on its crucial water supplies from the River Nile, pulled out of talks in late August after the three countries failed to reach a consensus on the legal and technical points of contention after Ethiopia proposed a package of non-binding guidelines for the filling and operation of the mega-dam.
Tuesday’s meeting, which was pushed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current chair of the AU, was the first since the seven-week hiatus over the deal.
Sudan has expressed its rejection during last week’s meeting of “the same negotiations approach that have led to a deadlock in the previous rounds,” according to Saleh Hamad, the head of Sudan’s negotiations team.
It has called for setting bigger and more effective roles by experts and observers, which includes the United States, the European Union and AU, to converge viewpoints for a deal between the three countries.
The resumption of negotiations last week came 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.
Trump told Sudanese prime minister Abdalla Hamdok in a phone call that he had brokered a deal to resolve the crisis but that Ethiopia had broken the pact, pushing him to halt aid the country.
He said Egypt could “blow up that dam”, sparking anger in Ethiopia which summoned US Ambassador to Addis Ababa Mike Raynor over Trump’s comments, which Ethiopia described as an “incitement of war."
The GERD, built 15 kilometres from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of contention between the three countries since its construction began in 2010.
The first filling of the controversial dam took place this summer, despite Ethiopia not having reached a binding agreement with its downstream neighbours.
Cairo fears the massive hydropower 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 6,000-megawatt dam is key to its development and hopes to become Africa’s biggest electricity exporter.