Egypt's Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati has reaffirmed Cairo's keenness to continue negotiations on the dispute caused by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), with the aim of reaching a "fair and binding" deal that fulfills the interests of all parties involved.
Minister Abdel-Ati emphasised Egypt's fundamental interests in the decade-old issue, which he said are based on preserving the country's water rights and achieving benefits for Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
"What flexibility Egypt has displayed during the negotiations over the past years has been met with intransigence from Ethiopia," he noted during meetings with South Sudanese government officials on the second day of his visit to the African country.
The meetings were attended by South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar and Irrigation Minister Manawa Peter, among others, according to a statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation.
Negotiations between Ethiopia and downstream countries Egypt and Sudan over the GERD dispute stalled in April after Addis Ababa rejected the two countries' request to include the US, the EU, and the UN in mediation talks, alongside the African Union, the current mediator.
Tensions have mounted further as Addis Ababa remains intent on moving forward with the second filling of the GERD’s reservoir next month despite the lack of a binding instrument with Cairo and Khartoum.
Egypt and Sudan, as a result, have resorted to international diplomacy in the past weeks, briefing regional and international counterparts on their stances and developments in the latest deadlock in negotiations, including addressing the United Nations Security Council.
Sudanese Irrigation Minister Mariam Al-Sadiq said on Saturday Sudan called for reaching a "preconditioned provisional agreement" on the rules for the second filling due to the second filling’s "direct" impact on Khartoum.
The initial agreement that has been discussed with the Egyptian side, according to the Sudanese minister, should be followed by a final deal within a maximum period of 6 months and be based on points agreed upon in the previous rounds of negotiations.
Also, the US, the European Union and the United Nations should be engaged as mediators, along with the African Union, she added.
Minister Abdel-Ati arrived in Juba on Monday along with an official delegation for a five-day visit to hold talks on promoting bilateral cooperation, including in the field of water management.
During Tuesday's meeting, the Egyptian delegation addressed the progress of several joint development projects in water resource fields as well as agreed on future steps to implement other proposed development projects aimed at raising the living standards of the people of South Sudan.
Abdel-Ati said the ministry is implementing project across seven Sudanese states, with three more states expected to be included in the ministry's projects.
The Egyptian irrigation ministry has established six groundwater plants around Juba and seven more inside the capital. Additionally, river piers have also been established to connect major cities and villages in South Sudan, according to a previous statement by Abdel-Ati.