Egypt backs Sudanese proposal to form int'l quartet committee to mediate GERD negotiations: FM

Ahram Online , Wednesday 24 Feb 2021

The proposed committee would include the US, the EU, the UN, and the African Union

File Photo: A handout satellite image shows a closeup view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia taken on June 26, 2020. Reuters

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told a Congolese official on Wednesday that Cairo supports a Sudanese proposal to form an international quartet committee to mediate the stalled negotiations on the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The proposed committee would include the US, the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), and the African Union (AU), and would be under the auspices of Félix Tshisekedi, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the current head of the AU.

In a meeting in the Egyptian capital, Shoukry discussed with Alphonse Ntumba, the coordinator of the panel concerned with the DRC's presidency of the African Union (AU), the latest developments on the GERD.

Minister Shoukry expressed hope that the proposed methodology would push the negotiations forward and assist the three countries in reaching the desired agreement as soon as possible, foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said in a statement following the meeting.

The minister also expressed Egypt's appreciation for the Congolese endeavours in following up on the latest development in the GERD issue.

According to Hafez, Shoukry told the Congolese official that Egypt hopes the DRC can play a "key role" to help reach a legally binding agreement on the rules of filling and operating the Ethiopian dam.

Since last year, the AU has been mediating the talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the dispute caused by GERD.

The last round of AU negotiations, mediated by South Africa, the former president of the AU, stalled in January due to Khartoum's withdrawal from the latest meetings in objection to the methodology upon which the talks had been held.

Sudan called for granting a bigger role to the experts involved in the talks instead of holding direct discussions between the three nations. Ethiopia, as well as Egypt, rejects Sudan's demand.

The US and the EU have been participating in the AU-sponsored talks as observers.

Before the AU stepped in to mediate the long-standing dispute, the US Treasury Department hosted more than one round of tripartite talks from November 2019 until February 2020, but Ethiopia withdrew from the last session of talks and refused to sign any binding deal.

Egypt fears the project will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the River Nile, while Sudan has concerns over how the reservoir will be managed.

Ethiopia says the massive project, which it hopes will make it Africa’s largest power exporter, is key to its development efforts.

Egypt has stressed on multiple occasions that it supports Ethiopia's development goals, but has insisted that a legally binding agreement between the three sides is the only acceptable way to end the dispute and safeguard its water rights.

However, Ethiopia completed the first filling of the dam last summer and announced plans to complete the second filling in July without waiting for a deal to be signed.

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