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Monday, 17 May 2021

No agreement so far on GERD technical, legal points: Egypt

The three countries have been holding the virtual talks, sponsored by the African Union, with the aim of reaching an accord on the mega-dam

Zeinab El-Gundy , Thursday 9 Jul 2020
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia (photo: Reuters)

Egypt's irrigation ministry said on Thursday that no consensus has yet been reached by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on any of the technical or legal issues concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), on the seventh consecutive day of talks on the hydropower project.

The three countries have been holding the virtual talks, sponsored by the African Union, with the aim of reaching an accord on the mega-dam. Up to 11 observers representing the EU, the US, the AU Commission, South Africa and the AU's legal and technical experts are attending the online talks.

The Egyptian ministry said in the statement that the three countries' irrigation ministers on Thursday covered the discussions held on Tuesday between the three countries and the experts over the legal and technical disagreements, in an attempt to approximate the points of contention on these areas.

They also reviewed a letter from South Africa, the current chair of the African Union, which requested each of the three countries present a factual report on the progress made during the talks, and asked that a final report be submitted on Monday, the statement said.

The three ministers also agreed to send their factual reports separately to South Africa on Thursday, while the discussions on the technical and legal will continue until 13 July, the statement noted.

A Sudanese irrigation ministry statement issued on Thursday said that the day’s talks tackled the first filling of the dam, the ongoing operation of the dam, its operations during drought periods, and the re-filling of the reservoir following prolonged drought.

The Sudanese ministry added that the discussion also covered the disputed legal issues, including the obligatory status of the agreement, the dispute settlement mechanism, and the relationship between the GERD agreement and the previous water agreements signed by the Nile basin countries.

Ethiopia's insistence on not committing to a legally binding agreement was highlighted by Sudan in June in a letter to the United Nations Security Council, in which it objected that Ethiopia proposed a document of "guidelines" that could be revised and in some cases terminated.

The Egyptian statement said that the technical and legal committees will convene again on Friday while the three countries will meet separately with the observers on Saturday.

On Sunday, meetings of the three ministers will be held, the statement noted.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said previously that his country is set to start filling the dam’s reservoir to take advantage of the current heavy rain season, regardless of whether an agreement is reached with Egypt and Sudan.

Both Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly called on Ethiopia not to take any unilateral action concerning the filling of the dam.

Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 95 percent of its freshwater, fears the dam will significantly reduce the river’s flow, especially during the filling stages through periods of drought and dry years. Ethiopia, on the other hand, says the project is key to its development efforts.

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