AU-brokered GERD talks end with no agreement: Egypt's irrigation ministry

Ahram Online , Monday 13 Jul 2020

Cairo, Addis Ababa, and Khartoum have been engaged in online talks mediated by the African Union since 3 July in a bid to reconcile views over the near decade-long disagreements caused by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

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

The 11th day of online talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan saw the persistence of differences on major issues regarding the rules of filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Egypt's irrigation ministry stated on Monday.

The Egyptian announcement came following a meeting on Monday between the legal and technical committees of the three countries and another meeting between the countries' irrigation ministers to discuss the points of contention on both tracks.

The three countries' irrigation ministers agreed to submit on Tuesday their final reports concerning the path of negotiations to South Africa, the current president of the AU in preparation for holding a mini-African summit.

The statement didn't provide further details on the forthcoming summit.

Leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia attended a virtual African mini-summit on 26 June in response to a call from South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current chairperson of the AU. The summit was attended by member states of the Bureau of the AU Heads of State and Government.

Following the summit, the AU called on the three nations to refrain from taking actions that may "jeopardise or complicate" its efforts to find an acceptable solution to outstanding issues over the $4.8 billion dam.

Last Thursday, Cairo said it will not accept any incomplete deal that would not take into account the Egyptian concerns, stressing that Ethiopia's continued adherence to its “intransigent” stances on both the technical and legal aspects of the differences over the hydropower project shall “reduce the chances of reaching an agreement.”

The Egyptian negotiators voiced their concerns about Ethiopia's failure to address rules regulating the filling and operation of the GERD during drought, prolonged drought, and dry years.

The differences also include the rules of the re-filling following a prolonged drought, and the annual operation of the giant dam, construction of which near the Sudanese border started in 2011.

Egypt is also concerned about future projects on the Blue Nile, a main tributary of the Nile, and demands binding dispute settlement mechanisms, things that Addis Ababa has refused to include in a deal.

The previous round of negotiations between the three countries, held from 9 to 17 June, failed to produce an accord due to Ethiopia's refusal to enter into a legally binding agreement and its recurrent announcement that it will begin filling the dam in July with or without the approval of the two downstream countries.

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