File photo: Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (Photo: AP)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry headed to the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, on Friday to take part in a new round of the resumed African Union-sponsored talks on the Ethiopian dam (GERD).
The talks on the GERD, which has been suspended for months, will be resumed through a three-day meeting starting Saturday.
The meeting held at invitation by DR Congo, the head of the AU this year, will bring together the foreign and irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
The AU-sponsored talks had stopped since January, with Sudan arguing that the approach of talks had become ineffective and with Egypt blaming stalemates in the talks over Ethiopia’s intransigence.
The talks also come weeks after Sudan requested a quartet mediation in the GERD talks, which includes the AU, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations.
Egypt supports the Sudanese proposal and Ethiopia says it would only abide by the AU talks.
“Egypt’s keenness in accepting this invitation from the Democratic Republic of the Congo stems from [the latter’s] stance calling for launching a serious and effective negotiation process,” a statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry read on Friday,
The statement also said the current AU meetings seek to “reach a binding legal agreement on the filling and operating of the Renaissance Dam, in a way that takes into consideration the interests of the two countries”.
The meeting comes a few days after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi took a hard line on the GERD dispute, warning that a compromise in Egypt’s water share was a “red line”.
He pledged action if the country’s share of water from the Nile is jeopardised.
“No one can take a drop of water from Egypt,” El-Sisi said, warning of “inconceivable instability in the region that no one could imagine” if that is to happen.
His remarks followed a condemnation statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry, objecting to Ethiopia’s “sovereignty language” when speaking about the transboundary River Nile.
The statement also reiterated rejection of Ethiopia’s plans to complete the dam filling in July with or without an agreement.
Ethiopian officials have continued to affirm these plans although Egypt and Sudan have affirmed that implementing the second filling in July before reaching an agreement would have disastrous impact.
On Friday, Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde also affirmed her country is preparing for the second phase of the massive dam filling.
“We have fulfilled the first phase of the Renaissance Dam filling after overcoming challenges and pressures,” Zewde said in a video that was published in Amharic and translated by Al-Ain.
She added that “Ethiopia is determined to complete the construction of the dam that is aspired by all Ethiopians and represents the pillars of the state’s developmental endeavours.”
Zewde said her country failed in the past to take advantage of its water resources for years due to the limited capabilities as well as due to regional and international circumstances.
She said that GERD is the cornerstone of Ethiopians in overcoming poverty and turning the life of Ethiopians to the better.
“The Renaissance Dam is a historic property of Ethiopians that is established [and] that is built by [them] sharing their wealth, time, work and knowledge," she added.