Egypt'sDeputy Foreign Minister for African Affairs Hamdy Loza has stressed on the importance of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations to be effective and serious in order to maximise chances of their success, a statement by the ministry said on Saturday.
Loza's remarks came during his meeting, on the same day, in Cairo with US Special Envoy for Sudan Donald Booth in which they tackled the latest updates of the disputable GERD file. They also discussed ongoing efforts to revive negotiations in reaching an agreement on filling and operating the near-complete dam.
Loza affirmed, during the meeting, that serious negotiation "enables the three countries to reach a fair, balanced and legally binding agreement that achieves their common interests" in addition to preserving Egypt's rights and securing its water interests.
Cairo and Khartoum have been in talks with Addis Ababa for a decade to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operating of the $4.8 billion mega-dam, which has been under construction on the Blue Nile since 2011.
The latest round of GERD talks, sponsored by the African Union (AU), have been stalled since January after Sudan had withdrawn from the negotiations due to its rejection of the methodology upon which the negotiations were held, calling for a bigger role by the experts assigned by the AU to reconcile opinions instead of the direct trilateral talks.
Sudan has recently suggested an international quartet made up of the AU, the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) to mediate the talks.
Although the AU-sponsored GERD talks had already included the AU, the US and the EU as observers, the Sudanese proposal aimed at introducing the UN to the talks and turning the four parties into mediators, rather than mere observers.
Egypt has endorsed the Sudanese proposal, but Ethiopia has rejected it, maintaining that it would stick to the AU-mediated talks.
Booth's current visit to Egypt is part of his regional tour to push forward efforts and to re-launch the negotiations while including Sudan and Ethiopia in addition to the AU head DR Congo, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The Sudanese proposal – which suggests DR Congo to lead the mediators' quartet – has been reviewed during the meeting of Loza and Booth, the statement said.
Moreover, the foreign ministry said, Loza had emphasised - during the meeting - the necessity of reaching an agreement on filling and operating the GERD at the earliest possible opportunity and before Ethiopia begins implementing the second phase of filling, so as to ensure that Egypt and Sudan are not negatively affected by the filling process.
Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly demanded that Ethiopia not start the second filling of the GERD’s reservoir until a legally binding agreement, over the dam’s operation and filling, is signed.
Last Wednesday, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi affirmed - during a meeting with his Burundian Counterpart Évariste Ndayishimiye - that an agreement on GERD should be reached “away from any unilateral approach that seeks to impose the fait accompli and ignore the basic rights of the people.”
However, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on 23 March, before parliament, that his country would go on with the second filing of the GERD, which is aimed at collecting around 18.4 bcm of Blue Nile water up from the 4.9 bcm secured during the first filling last year.
El-Sisi stated last week that the GERD represents an “existential” issue that affects the lives of millions of Egyptians.
Egypt’s 100 million-plus population relies on the River Nile for more than 95 percent of its renewable water resources. The country fears that the massive hydropower project will significantly diminish its crucial water supply, which is already below scarcity level.
Sudan fears the GERD would put the operation of its Roseires dam and the lives of Sudanese citizens – 20 million Sudanese people rely on the Blue Nile – at "a very high risk" if an agreement regulating its operation and filling is not reached before the second filling.