Sudan rejects Ethiopian proposal on GERD filling, says deal lacks technical, legal aspects

Menna Alaa El-Din , Tuesday 12 May 2020

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok sent a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed disapproving of an Addis Ababa proposal on an agreement over the dam’s first filling

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

Sudan has said it rejects any partial agreement over the beginning of the filling of the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in July, a letter by the country’s prime minister read, joining Egypt in repudiating efforts by Ethiopia to progress its mega dam.

According to a statement on Tuesday, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok sent a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed disapproving of an Addis Ababa proposal on an agreement over the dam’s first filling. 

“Any signing of a partial agreement for the first filling could not be approved due to technical and legal aspects that should be included in the agreement,” Hamdok said.

The agreement must incorporate a mechanism of coordination, an exchange of information and the safety of the dam and its environmental and social impacts, he said. 

The Sudanese prime minister stressed that the path to reach a comprehensive agreement is an immediate resumption of negotiations which he said saw significant progress in the last four months. 

Sudan believes that the current circumstances do not allow for talks through normal diplomatic channels, he said, in reference to the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that teleconferences are a means to complete negotiations and agree on outstanding issues. 

Lead Sudanese negotiator Saleh Hamad said that most of the issues being negotiated are inextricably linked, not only to the first filling, but to all phases of filling and operations on the long run and therefore cannot be divided. 

Hamad said Sudan has been pushing with efforts for a return of negotiations under Washington-sponsored talks, which have resolved 90 percent of disagreements. 

He said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed in March his full support for efforts by the Sudanese prime minister on the return of talks over the dam. 

Hamdok also called on the presidents of Egypt and Ethiopia to resume negotiations predicting a return to the negotiation table for a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operations of the dam before the next flood season.

Tuesday’s statement comes a day after Ethiopia announced it is to start filling its mega-dam in July, despite opposition from Egypt and Sudan as they stand by a 2015 declaration that stipulates an agreement on the guidelines governing the filling and annual operation of the dam should be reached.

Egypt has been abiding by the rules of international law since the onset of negotiations over the GERD despite Ethiopia's intransigence and sudden withdrawal from the last round of talks in Washington earlier this year to sign the final agreement over the rules of filling and operating the GERD.

Washington, which has been brokering talks since last year, failed to secure signatures from the three countries at end February, stressing that the filling of the 6,000-megawatt dam "should not take place without an agreement."

Only Egypt initialled the agreement, saying it was "fair and balanced" and "achieves the interest of the three countries."

Ethiopia attempted to revive last month the faltered talks through letters sent by Ahmed to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Hamdok on the Ethiopian proposal that would cover the first stage of the filling, letter to the UN Security Council from Cairo showed.

Egypt have turned to the UN body to voice their concerns and rejection of the Ethiopian proposal.

Cairo, in a 17-page letter, blamed Ethiopia for trying to establish a deal without taking the interests of downstream countries into consideration.

Some 85 percent of the Nile waters that reach Egypt flow from the Ethiopian highlands, mainly from the Blue Nile.

Ethiopia hopes the massive $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile, which has been under construction since 2011, will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.

Egypt recieves an annual release of 55.5 billion cubic metres from its High Aswan Dam, while it needs over 80 billion cubic metres. It bridges the gap by water recycling and reuse.

Cairo fears the dam will diminish its water supply from the Nile, on which it relies for the vast majority of its fresh water.

The populous country currently has a water share of around 570 cubic metres per person annually, well below the water scarcity level of 1,000 cubic metres per person per year. The figure is expected to drop further to 500 cubic metres by 2025. 

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