Egypt, Sudan committed to Washington terms of reference on filling, operating Ethiopian dam

Mohamed Soliman , Thursday 9 Apr 2020

A Thursday meeting between Egyptian and Sudanese officials marks a new convergence between the two countries

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

Egypt and Sudan emphasised in a joint press release on Thursday their commitment to the path agreed upon in the US-brokered negotiations on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), state news agency MENA reported, and said they were committed to the terms of refence of the deal those negotiations brokered.

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia were expected to sign a final deal on the GERD in late February, when the last meeting was scheduled to be held in Washington, but Ethiopia skipped the meetings, citing incomplete domestic discussions.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced earlier this month that his country would start the filling of the GERD this rainy season, which starts in June or July.

The joint Egyptian-Sudanese press release came after a meeting held in Khartoum on Thursday between Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abass, Egyptian Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel, and Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aati.

The officials discussed ways of boosting bilateral relations and the developments in the GERD issue.

Both countries reiterated their adherence to the Declaration of Principles signed by Cairo, Khartoum, and Addis Ababa in 2015.

The Thursday meeting marks a new convergence between the two countries after Sudan previously declined to endorse a draft resolution proposed by Egypt to the Arab League on the GERD dispute.

Following the Arab League motion, Sudanese Sovereignty Council member Siddiq Tawer said he believed his country’s stance on the Ethiopian mega-dam had been “misunderstood,” and that Khartoum had sought to take into account the interests of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan when dealing with the issue.

Tensions have been building between Egypt and Ethiopia over the technical details regarding the operation and filling of the dam.

Ethiopia hopes that the massive $4.8 billion project on the Blue Nile will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.

Egypt, which is downstream from the dam, fears that the project will diminish its share of Nile water, on which it is almost entirely reliant for its fresh water.

The US stepped in to host negotiations in November after the three countries announced that talks had reached a dead-end, and after Egypt asked for an international mediator.

Egypt has accused Ethiopia of "deliberately" impeding the course of negotiations following skipping the February's meetings, and the US Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said following the Ethiopian move that “the final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.”

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