Egypt stresses importance of adhering to previous AU resolutions on reaching binding deal in GERD talks

Ahram Online , Sunday 1 Nov 2020

The three countries agreed last week that Khartoum would host the talks, which aim to set a timeframe and a new framework for the renewed negotiations

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (photo: AP)

Egypt said it has stressed during revived talks on the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam  (GERD) on the importance of implementing previous African Union (AU) resolutions on reaching a binding legal accord over the filling and operations of the dam.

According to an official statement, Egypt’s irrigation and water resources ministry stressed during renewed talks on Sunday with Ethiopian and Sudanese counterparts on reaching a binding deal and achieving the common interests of the three countries while guaranteeing its water interests.

A session will be held on Monday in the attendance of legal and technical representatives from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to mull negotiation means in the coming period and discuss proposals by the three countries, it said, with the outcomes of the session reported later to the ministers of the three countries on Tuesday.

Earlier on Sunday, Sudan has called for giving the AU a bigger role in facilitating a deal between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the filling and operation of the dam.

According to an official statement, Sudan’s irrigation ministry said talks between the three countries’ saw Khartoum offering its vision for “abandoning the previous, unproductive means of negotiations and replacing it with more effective approaches.”

The resumption of the negotiations came days after Khartoum called for a new one-week round of talks aiming to revive the stalled negotiations.

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed last week that Khartoum would host the talks, which aim to set a timeframe and a new framework for the renewed negotiations.

Tuesday’s meeting, which was proposed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the current chair of the AU, was the first since negotiations ceased seven weeks ago.

The Sudanese negotiating team proposed on Sunday that talks continue under a specific timetable and that clear outcomes must be reported to the AU commission.

Sunday’s meeting also saw extensive talks on the expected roles of observers and experts during the next rounds of negotiation.

The ministers agreed on continuing talks through a six-person team that includes two representatives from each country.

The team will be mandated with setting a reference framework for how experts would facilitate negotiations between the three countries, and it will prepare a reported to be handed in to the irrigation ministers of the three countries on Tuesday.

Egypt, which relies heavily on its crucial water supplies from the River Nile, pulled out of talks in late August after the three countries failed to reach a consensus on the legal and technical points of contention after Ethiopia proposed a package of non-binding guidelines for the filling and operation of the mega-dam.

The resumption of negotiations last week came days after US President Donald Trump laid the blame squarely on Ethiopia for the failure of the negotiations and said that Cairo's concerns in the dispute are legitimate.

Trump told Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in a phone call that he had brokered a deal to resolve the crisis, but that Ethiopia had broken the pact, pushing him to halt aid the country.

He said that Egypt could “blow up that dam,” which Ethiopia described as an “incitement of war."

The GERD, built 15 kilometres from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of contention between the three countries since its construction began in 2010.

The first filling of the controversial dam took place this summer, despite Ethiopia not having reached a binding agreement with its downstream neighbours.

Cairo fears the massive hydropower project will significantly reduce 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 its hopes for becoming Africa’s biggest electricity exporter. 

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