FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) is seen as it undergoes construction work on the Blue Nile river in Guba, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia (photo: Reuters)
The ongoing round of tripartite talks on the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) continued for the ninth consecutive day on Saturday under the auspices of the African Union (AU) in an attempt to reach an agreement on filling and operating the 6,000-megawatt dam, Egypt's irrigation ministry said in a statement.
In response to a call by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the current AU chairperson, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have been engaged in online talks attended by observers representing the EU, the US, the AU Commission, South Africa, and the AU's legal and technical experts.
Saturday's session witnessed bilateral meetings between each country separately, which were attended by observers and experts, the statement said. During the session, the Egyptian delegation clarified the alternative formulations presented by Egypt in the technical committee meeting that was held a day earlier.
On Friday, the irrigation ministry's statement noted that Egypt has proposed several draft agreements for the convergence of views on procedures to deal with extended drought and rules of annual operation and refilling.
Ethiopia said it will review alternatives proposed by Egypt, with a tripartite ministerial meeting set to be held on 12 July to discuss the proposals, according to the Egyptian statement.
The Egyptian ministry added that the observers submitted during Saturday's session some notes and inquiries, to which the Egyptian technical and legal committees responded and issued clarification.
The previous round of negotiations, which was brokered by Khartoum and held from 9 to 17 June, failed to produce an accord due to Ethiopia's refusal to enter into a legally binding agreement.
Last Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that his country will start filling the reservoir of the Blue Nile hydropower dam to tap into the current heavy rain season, despite Egypt and Sudan saying earlier that the three countries had agreed to delay the filling until a trilateral agreement on the disputed project is reached.
In response, the spokesman of the Egyptian irrigation ministry Mohamed El-Sebaie said the recent remarks by Ahmed contradict the pledge made by the three countries late last month not to take any unilateral action over the project until an agreement is reached during the AU-sponsored talks.
Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 95 percent of its fresh water, 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 its massive $4.8 billion megaproject is key to its development efforts.