The Egyptian, Sudanese, and Ethiopian irrigation ministers expressed their hopes to reach a fair situation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) talks during the second round of the ministerial and technical negotiations between the three countries, which is being held in Cairo on 2-3 December.
Egyptian irrigation minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati said Egypt hopes to reach a fair and balanced agreement on the filling and operation of the dam by 15 January 2020.
Abdel-Ati stressed the necessity of having a discussion on the rules of filling and operating the GERD and continuing the talks that started at the previous round in Addis Ababa on 6 November.
The Cairo-hosted talks are the second of four rounds of talks being held in accordance with an agreement reached in a US-brokered meeting between the three parties in Washington in November, which saw the attendance of representatives of the US government and the World Bank and aimed to break the deadlock in negotiations.
"Egypt is committed to reach a fair and balanced agreement on filling and operating the dam, in accordance with the declaration of principles signed by the three states," Abdel-Ati added.
"I believe that there is a crystalline path towards finding a win-win solution through these negotiations," he said, adding "our goal is to reach an agreement to enable Ethiopia to achieve its aim by generating the hydro-power, on one hand, and to protect the downstream countries from any major damage that could touch their water uses, on the other hand."
That reflects Egypt's keenness to support Ethiopia's efforts to achieve further economic growth and prosperity, he noted.
"Egypt already suffers from a considerable water shortage that reaches 21 billion cubic meters a year and we need to reach a multi-reservoir operation agreement to enable the reservoir of the Ethiopian dam to achieve its goal, in addition to protecting the Egyptian High Dam and the Aswan Reservoir to achieve our goal as well."
Sudanese irrigation minister Yasser Abbas expressed his wish to make progress on the GERD talks, saying "If we managed to listen to our concerns, that would pave the way to make progress."
Ethiopian irrigation minister Selci Bekele stressed that the dam will be an example of integration in the region.
"Since September 2018, we have held five meetings over the dam, and our meetings had dealt with the technical problems related to dam operation," Bekele said.
He added that Ethiopia aims at generating power, eliminating poverty and improving social and economic life through the dam.
"This river is very important for Egypt and Sudan," he said, stressing that Ethiopia has the right to use the resources of this river as well.
"These technical meetings aren’t aimed at discussing the legitimacy of this dam, and we have to find a solution for the outstanding problems while the traditional negotiations will not help us," Bekele pointed out.
"Ethiopia believes that the work that will begin in July next year should be based on confidence," he noted.
"We know that we have made a great progress on determining the duration, operation and construction of this dam, which is scheduled to last between four and seven years, but the rest of the other problems must be resolved patiently," he added.
The timeframe for filling and operating the dam is one of the main obstacles in the negotiations. The three countries have tabled different proposals on the duration of filling the GERD’s reservoir. Egypt’s proposal calls for a relatively extended filling period.
Ethiopia launched the GERD project in 2011 in a bid to provide electricity to more than half of its population and to become the continent's biggest power exporter, generating more than 6,000 megawatts.
Egypt, however, fears that the speed of filling the Ethiopian dam will adversely diminish its share of the River Nile water, as the country depends on the river for 85 percent of its water resources.