GERD talks continue in Kinshasa

Ahram Online , Sunday 4 Apr 2021

A presidential summit could be held if the three-day talks between the ministers and technical teams of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia achieve progress

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. REUTERS

Negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to solve the decade long dispute caused by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) continue on Sunday in Kinshasa amid expectations of concluding the new round with a summit grouping the three countries' leaders on Tuesday.

Foreign and irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are participating currently in the new round of negations which is mediated by the African Union (AU) in an effort to solve the Blue Nile dispute.

The round, which started on Saturday and is set to conclude on Monday, is attended by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in a first bid to solve the row after his country took over the presidency of the AU in February, succeeding South Africa, which mediated in vain the talks over the past year.

The Congolese-sponsored talks are expected to conclude on Tuesday with a tripartite summit grouping the three countries' presidents if the three-day ministerial and technical talks achieve progress, according to Sky News Arabia.

In statements reported by Sky News Arabia on Sunday, the Sudanese Minister of Irrigation said that Ethiopia should not embark on the second filling of the reservoir of its dam before reaching an agreement with downstream countries: Egypt and Sudan.

Minister Yasser Abbas said the agreement should include the rules of filing and operating the Nile dam, which has been of concern to Cairo and Khartoum since 2011.

Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly pursued reaching a legally binding agreement on the rules for filling and operating the dam, but the step has been repeatedly dodged or rejected by the upstream country.

However, Ethiopia has completed the first filling of the dam last summer and announced plans to complete the second filing in July without waiting for a deal to be signed.

Egypt has repeatedly expressed concerns that Ethiopia's swift filling of the GERD jeopardises its share of Nile water. The country, which is dependent on the Nile water for 95 percent of its renewable water needs, fears that the $4.8 billion Ethiopian hydropower project will significantly diminish its crucial water supply, which is already below the scarcity level.

Also, Sudan fears the GERD will put the operation of its Roseires dam – which is located nearby the GERD – and the lives of Sudanese citizens – approximately 20 million Sudanese people – at “a very high risk” if an agreement regulating its operation and filling is not reached before the second filling.

Kinshasa-based talks, which come nearly two months after the last round stalled in January, started three days after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said "No one can take a single drop of Egypt's water, adding that “If it happens, there will be inconceivable instability in the region.”

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