Egypt, Sudan PMs stress necessity of negotiating to reach binding agreement on GERD

Ahram Online , Saturday 15 Aug 2020

Egyptian, Sudanese PMs
Egypt's Prime Minister Mostafa Mabdouly (left) during his meeting with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (right) in Khartoum on Saturday (Photo courtesy of Egyptian Cabinet)

The Egyptian and Sudanese prime ministers emphasised on Saturday the necessity of negotiating in order to reach a binding agreement on filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The remarks were made in a joint statement read out by Sudan’s Information Minister Faisal Mohammed Saleh during a press conference held in Khartoum by Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Mabdouly and his Sudanese counterpart Abdalla Hamdok.

Madbouly arrived at the Sudanese capital earlier on Saturday for a one-day visit, where he was accompanied by the ministers of irrigation, electricity, heath, and industry and trade, as well as high-level officials from the transport and education ministries.

According to the joint statement, the Egyptian and Sudanese sides called for an agreement on the GERD that would preserve the interests of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, in accordance with the 2015 Agreement on the Declaration of Principles, as well as the principle of the just and equitable use of water while not causing significant harm, and the relevant principles of international law.

The two sides also highlighted the importance of agreeing on an effective and binding mechanism for settling disputes, as well as a mechanism for coordination between the three countries to ensure the safe operation of all water installations and projects affected by the GERD.

The renewed talks, sponsored by the African Union (AU), between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the giant hydroelectric dam that Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile are due to resume on Sunday following a request by Sudan to postpone them for one week last Monday.

The Sudanese request came one week after Cairo had requested a one-week halt to the negotiations on the $5 billion dam after Addis Ababa put forward a new draft proposal that lacked "rules on the operation of the dam, any elements indicating a binding deal, or a legal mechanism to settle disputes."

The Egyptian and Sudanese sides stressed on Saturday in their joint statement the importance of not taking any unilateral action before reaching an agreement that is satisfactory to the three parties.

They also renewed their commitment to negotiations as the optimum way to achieve the interests of the peoples of the region, and expressed their aspiration for the success of the negotiations under the auspices of the AU.

Last month, Addis Ababa announced it had achieved its first-year target for the filling of the dam’s reservoir due to the rainfall season. The move was condemned by Cairo and Khartoum, both of whom had sought a legally binding agreement before the start of the filling process.

Accordingly, Egypt sent earlier this month a letter to South Africa, which currently chairs the AU, reaffirming Cairo’s rejection of Ethiopia’s “unilateral” initial filling of the GERD and the new Ethiopian draft proposal.

In its letter, Cairo said the Ethiopian proposal violates directives by the AU in July calling on the three countries to swiftly finalise a legally binding agreement.

From its side, Sudan, who has also rejected the Ethiopian unilateral filling of the dam, threatened earlier this month to withdraw from the talks if Ethiopia insisted on linking an agreement on the dam’s filling to negotiating a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.

The mega-dam, built 15 kilometres from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of tension between the three nations. Cairo fears the project will significantly cut its water supply from the River Nile, while Sudan fears it will endanger the safety of its own dams.

Ethiopia says the massive project, which it hopes will make it Africa’s largest power exporter, is key to its development efforts.

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