South African President Cyril Ramaphosa; Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Photo courtesy of official spokesperson of the Egyptian Presidency)
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi reaffirmed on Wednesday the Egyptian constants regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), especially with regard to the resumption of tripartite negotiations to reach a binding and comprehensive legal agreement between all concerned parties regarding the rules for filling and operating the dam.
El-Sisi's remarks came during a phone call he received from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current chair of the African Union (AU), according to a statement by the Egyptian Presidency.
Egypt's Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Rady said that the phone call dealt with the developments of the hydropower project, in light of the current mediation of the AU to the tripartite negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
The last round of AU-brokered trilateral talks on the near-complete mega-dam concluded in August without reaching an integrated draft agreement on the operation and filling of the dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile.
During that last round of talks, the three countries' technical and legal committees were scheduled to come up with a unified draft of their three proposals for an agreement to be submitted to Ramaphosa.
They failed to reach a consensus, however, and agreed instead to send individual letters to Ramaphosa expressing their visions for the next stage of talks.
El-Sisi, during the call, expressed Egypt's rejection of any action or procedure that violates Egypt's rights in the Nile waters, the statement noted.
Ramaphosa, from his side, voiced his aspiration for the continuation of intensive coordination between the two countries during the coming period so as to work on resolving the current situation, and to reach a fair and balanced agreement on such a vital issue.
The GERD, built 15 kilometres from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of contention between the three countries since construction began in 2011. The first filling of the controversial dam took place this summer, despite not having reached an agreement with its downstream neighbours.
Throughout the few previous rounds of talks, Addis Ababa had proposed a package of non-binding guidelines for the filling and operation of the mega-dam while the downstream countries Egypt and Sudan are seeking a legally binding deal on the filling and operation of the dam.
Addressing the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly on 23 September, El-Sisi stressed that the GERD negotiation period "should not be extended indefinitely" in order to impose a status quo.
The tripartite negotiations on GERD reached deadlock last year as did talks sponsored by the US and the World Bank in February.
Cairo fears the massive hydropower 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 says the 6,000-megawatt dam is key to its development and hopes to become Africa’s biggest electricity exporter.
The two leaders also discussed bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on various regional issues related to the AU, Rady said.