Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia conclude GERD meeting without integrated draft agreement

Ahram Online , Saturday 29 Aug 2020

"The draft didn't live up to its submission to the AU Bureau due to the continued contention over many legal and technical points," read the Egyptian statement.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Photo: Reuters)

Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa didn't reach consensus on the legal and technical points of contention drafted in the preliminary integrated agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Egypt's Ministry of Irrigation stated on Friday night.

Friday's meeting, held as part of talks brokered by the African Union (AU), was attended by the three countries' ministers of irrigation in addition to observers and experts from the AU, US, EU Commission, and the AU Commission.

The three countries' technical and legal committees were scheduled to come up with a unified draft from a collective report of the three capitals' proposals to be presented on Friday to South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current AU chair.

"The draft didn't live up to its submission to the AU Bureau due to the continued contention over many legal and technical points," read the Egyptian statement.

After a lengthy discussion on future negotiations, the irrigation ministers agreed each country will send a letter to the AU president expressing its vision for the next stage of talks, the statement added.

The Sudanese irrigation ministry said in a separate statement on Friday "after carefully evaluating the development of negotiations and reviewing the work of experts over the past days, it has become clear merging the three proposals had stalled.

"Continuing the talks in their current form will not achieve practical results," the Khartoum statement quoted the Sudanese irrigation minister Yasser Abbas as saying.

Abbas reiterated that reaching an agreement "requires a political will."

On Monday, the three legal and technical committees convened to negotiate the draft proposals compiled by the three sides on 21 August. They were scheduled to work on the compiled report until 28 August with the target of reconciling viewpoints over the points of contention to reach a binding accord.

"The three countries agreed to conclude the current round of negotiations without agreeing on the integrated draft agreement that was scheduled to be submitted to the AU president on 28 August," the Sudanese statement read.

Sudan stated that negotiations are the only way to reach an agreement and that "it will be ready to resume negotiations anytime after communicating with the AU presidency."

Egypt and Sudan have been in talks with Ethiopia for years now to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the massive hydropower dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile.

The concluded round of AU-sponsored talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia was launched last month. There was a hiatus between 27 July and 3 August after Ethiopia had announced it had completed the first phase of filling the GERD reservoir. The talks were further halted when Sudan called for a suspension of meetings to allow for consultations after Addis Ababa had proposed a package of non-binding guidelines for the filling and operation of the mega-dam.

Downstream countries Egypt and Sudan are seeking a legally binding deal on the filling and operation of the dam.

The $4.8 billion hydropower project, built 15 kilometres from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of contention between the three countries. Cairo fears the project will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the River Nile, while Sudan fears it could endanger the safety of its own dams.

Ethiopia, on the other hand, says the project is key to its development and hopes to become Africa’s biggest electricity exporter with the GERD, which is set to be the continent’s largest dam.  

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