Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan discuss GERD accord; draft agreement to be presented to ministers Friday

Menna Alaa El-Din , Wednesday 19 Aug 2020

A committee will present the draft agreement to the ministers of irrigation and water resources of the three countries on Friday

Water flows through GERD as it undergoes construction work (photo: Reuters)

Legal and technical representatives from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have begun to compile proposals for a draft agreement on the filling and operation of the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a statement by the Egyptian irrigation and water resources ministry said on Wednesday.

According to the statement, representatives from Egypt’s irrigation and water resources ministry attended on Wednesday African Union-brokered talks aiming to reach a binding agreement on the dam with its Sudanese and Ethiopian counterparts in the presence of observers from the United States, the European Union, AU-member states and the AU Commission.

A committee composed of a technical and legal member from each country has begun a compilation of proposals presented by the three countries in the presence of observers and experts to outline a unified draft accord, the statement said

The committee will present the draft agreement to the ministers of irrigation and water resources of the three countries on Friday.

“This comes under efforts to reach consensus over points of contention and prepare a report to present to South Africa’s president as the current chair of the AU on 28 August,” the ministry said.

Renewed AU-sponsored talks over the multi-billion-dollar project were launched last month between the three countries, and the US and the EU attended as observers. The talks stumbled earlier this month after Egypt and Sudan called for the suspension of meetings for internal consultations after Addis Ababa proposed a new draft on filling guidelines.

Egypt said the draft proposal put forward by Ethiopia lacked guidelines on the operation of the dam, any elements indicating a binding deal, or a legal mechanism to settle disputes.

Sudan had threatened earlier this month to withdraw from the talks if Ethiopia insisted on linking an agreement on the dam’s filling to a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.

Addis Ababa announced last month that 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 sought a legally binding agreement before the dam’s filling.

The nearly completed $5 billion dam has been a source of contention between the three countries. Cairo fears the project will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the Nile River, while Sudan fears it could 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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