The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) (photo: AP)
Egypt’s irrigation and water resources ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it has become clear during today's tripartite discussions on the controversial Ethiopian dam that there is no compatibility between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the methodology for completing the negotiations within the next stage.
The three countries' irrigation ministers virtually met on Wednesday and each was supposed to put forward his proposal for the framework that should be established for upcoming negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Ethiopia has started building on the Blue Nile since 2011.
From its side, the Sudanese irrigation ministry said in a separate statement on the same day, that the three countries agreed to end this round of negotiations on GERD and return the file to the African Union (AU).
The Egyptian irrigation ministry explained that the three countries have agreed that each "will submit a report to South Africa" – the current president of the AU and the present sponsor of the GERD negotiations.
The report of the three countries, the Egyptian statement said, shall cover the course of the meetings and their vision on ways to implement the outputs of the two meetings of the AU bureau at the summit level, held on 26 June and 21 July, in which it was decided that the three countries would conclude a binding legal agreement on filling and operating the $4.8 billion near-complete dam.
The Sudanese ministry stated that this round of negotiations, which started on 27 October, has failed to make any tangible progress in the role set by the joint meeting of the foreign and water ministers, which is to agree on the role that experts can play in the negotiations, its methodology, paths and timetable.
Sudan, the statement said, maintained during this round of talks its position of refusing to return to negotiations according to the previous methodology, which did not make any progress.
The Sudanese Minister of Irrigation Yasser Abbas said, according to the statement, that Sudan is still adhering to the negotiation process under the auspices of the AU, but with a new methodology to reach a satisfactory agreement for all parties on filling and operating the GERD.
The previous round of AU-mediated talks broke down in late August after Ethiopia proposed a package of non-binding guidelines for the filling and operating of the mega-dam, as opposed to what downstream countries Egypt and Sudan seek.
That AU-sponsored round of negotiations was launched in July after negotiations between the three countries reached deadlock last year, as did negotiations sponsored by the US and the World Bank in February.
The week-long talks kicked off on Sunday with experts meeting following a call by the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current chair of the AU, to resume the negotiations and to end the standoff.
This came days after the 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 aiding the country.
As a result, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed last week on Khartoum hosting one-week of talks to set a time frame and framework for the renewed talks, as well as outcomes to be reached in a different manner to previous rounds.
The GERD, built 15 kilometers from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of contention between the three countries. Cairo that has more than 85 per cent of its Nile water flow from Ethiopian highlands fears the massive hydropower project will significantly diminish its crucial water supplies, which is already below scarcity level, from the River Nile, while Sudan fears it could endanger the safety of its own dams.
While Ethiopia says the 6,000-megawatt dam 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.