Egypt has affirmed the need to reach an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) before the second filling of the massive dam’s reservoir, the foreign ministry said on Sunday.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry took part in a virtual meeting on Sunday with the Sudanese and Ethiopian foreign and water resources ministers.
The meeting was led by South Africa, the current chair of the African Union.
The ministry said in a statement that the three parties should reach an agreement “that achieves the mutual interests of the three countries and, at the same time, secures Egypt’s water rights and interests.”
The three parties agreed on holding a round of negotiations that will last for one week.
Following the meeting, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry affirmed the country’s commitment to conclude the GERD negotiations “with good faith” to reach an agreement but said it would not accept a deal that “will in any way restrict its right to use the Nile’s waters.”
In a press release, the Ethiopian ministry said the three countries have agreed on most of the issues regarding the first filling and annual operation of the GERD.
It added that the main difference among the three nations lies in the co-relations between the GERD’s guidelines and rules and the future water development projects in the Abbay Basin.
“Any agreement over the dam, which is being negotiated in the absence of a comprehensive water treaty and the prevalence of an unjust status-quo, shall be considerate of these fundamental factors,” the ministry said.
It noted that both Ethiopia and Sudan have viewed a draft document presented by the experts assigned by the Chairperson of the African Union as positive, but Egypt “categorically rejected” it.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry did not mention a rejection to this document in its statement after the meeting.
The new round of talks will discuss the controversial points regarding the operation of the Ethiopian dam, the ministry said.
Observers participating in the GERD talks and experts appointed by the African Union Commission will attend the meeting.
By the end of the week, a six-party meeting of the foreign ministers and water resources ministers of the three countries will be held, headed by South Africa, to review the outcome of the negotiations, the ministry said.
Egypt and Sudan have been in talks with Ethiopia for a decade to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operating of the near-complete $4.8 billion mega dam.
South Africa has been mediating negotiations recently between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia to resolve the dispute.
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 2011.
The first filling of the controversial dam took place last 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 Nile River, 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.