Sudan threatens to withdraw from GERD talks if Ethiopia insists on Blue Nile convention

Zeinab El-Gundy , Tuesday 4 Aug 2020

Minister Youssef Abbas
A file photo of Sudanese minister Youssef Abbas of irrigation (Photo:AFP)

Sudan said on Tuesday it may withdraw from the current round of talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) if Ethiopia insists on linking the reaching of a long-term agreement on the filling and operating of the dam to creating a convention on the use of the Blue Nile waters as a whole.

In letter addressed to the South African foreign minister, as the country is currently chairing the African Union and presiding over the negotiations, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said that Ethiopia's proposal has "raised serious fears" concerning the path of the current negotiations, as well as the understandings that were reached in previous talks.

“The Ethiopian letter [sent by the Ethiopian irrigation minister on 4 August just before Tuesday's scheduled talks] says that the agreement should be focused only on the first filling of the dam. It links reaching an agreement on the operating of the dam in the long-term to reaching a convention on the waters of the Blue Nile,” Abbas said.

Ethiopia announced on Tuesday that it had presented a version of what it called guidelines and rules on the mega-dam to Egypt and Sudan, and that both countries had requested to adjourn the talks to consider the Ethiopian proposal.

“This is a huge development and change in the Ethiopian stance which threatens the continuation of the talks led by the African Union, and it is also a violation of the Declaration of Principles signed by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in March 2015,” the Sudanese minister said in his letter.

The minister stressed the serious dangers presented by the dam for Sudan and its people, including its social and environmental impacts, which would affect the safety of millions of people living on the banks of the Blue Nile, as well as the safety of the country’s Roseires Dam.

Abbas stressed "the necessity of reaching a comprehensive agreement that covers both the filling and operating of the GERD."

“Sudan won’t risk the lives of 20 million of its citizens living on the banks of the Blue Nile to reach an agreement on the Blue Nile and future projects on it,” the minister said.

On Monday, talks between the irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia resumed via video conference under the auspices of the African Union and with the attendance of observers and experts from the EU Commission, the US and the African Union.

It was announced originally that three nations had agreed that the technical and legal committees were to hold meetings to discuss points of contention on 4-5 August, before presenting their conclusion at a ministerial meeting slated for 6 August.

Last month, Addis Ababa said it had completed the first-year’s filling of the dam’s reservoir.

The first round of AU-sponsored talks over the project ended two weeks ago without reaching an accord.

The leaders of the three countries agreed in a mini-summit held subsequently that they would restart talks.

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