The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday that the latest round of African Union (AU) sponsored trilateral talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia that were held in the Democratic Republic of Congo over the last three days in an attempt to re-launch deadlocked negotiations over the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) failed to reach an agreement.
In an official statement, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said the Kinshasa talks “did not make any progress and did not result in an agreement,” signaling the continuation of the years-old deadlock in talks over the Ethiopian dam.
The latest AU-sponsored trilateral talks, which were held on Sunday and Monday in Kinshasa under the sponsorship of the president of the DR Congo Félix Tshiseked as the current chair of the AU, were extended on Monday for a day to Tuesday after talks concluded yesterday with no progress due to persisting differences.
The foreign and irrigation ministers of the three countries participated in the talks.
Hafez said Ethiopia rejected a Sudanese proposal — backed by Egypt — to form an international quartet mediation, made up of the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), and the US, to resolve the dispute.
He said that Ethiopia also rejected during the Kinshasa talks all other suggestions and alternatives proposed by Egypt — with Sudanese support — to upgrade the negotiation process in order to allow observers to actively participate in the talks and facilitate negotiations as mediators to resolve outstanding legal and technical issues of contention.
Hafez said Ethiopia also objected to an Egyptian proposal backed by Sudan during the last session in the round of talks, which proposed the resumption of negotiations under the leadership of DRC President and current AU Chair Felix Tshisekedi and the participation of observers within the current negotiation mechanism.
Ethiopia’s rejection of the last proposal has led to the collapse of the meetings and failure to reach an agreement over relaunching the negotiations, he said.
“This shows beyond any doubt the degree of flexibility and responsibility demonstrated by Egypt and Sudan and proves their serious desire to reach an agreement over the GERD,” he said.
The Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman said Ethiopia’s position during the meetings “revealed again the lack of political will by Addis Ababa to negotiate in good-faith and its continued attempts to stall and delay through insisting on a formalistic and ineffective negotiation mechanism that could not fool Egypt.”
He described Ethiopia’s stand as “obstructive”, adding that it will “further complicate the dam crisis and increase resentment in the region.”
"Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry expressed Egypt's appreciation of the efforts exerted by the President of the DR Congo Félix Tshisekedi in mediating talks and its readiness to help him find a resolution to the dam dispute in a way that benefits the interests of all three countries and stability in the region," Hafez concluded.
Egypt and Sudan support reaching a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam to resolve the GERD dispute. Ethiopia has repeatedly rejected signing any such agreement.
Sudan said on Tuesday following the collapse of the talks that Ethiopia’s unilateral moves over the dam are a clear violation of international law.
Egypt had described the Kinshasa talks as the “last chance” to revive the GERD talks before an upcoming flood season which Addis Ababa is anticipating for a second filling of its dam.
Last year, South Africa, as chairman of the AU in 2020, mediated trilateral talks to resolve the dispute, but in vain.
Kinshasa’s talks come a few days after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi warned of consequences in the region if Cairo’s water supply was affected by the dam.
El-Sisi said there would be “inconceivable instability in the region that no one could imagine”, stressing that his message is “not a threat.”
His comments came in response to a continued deadlock in the talks and an insistence by Ethiopia to move forward with a second filling of the dam — set to take place in July — despite the objections of Egypt and Sudan to the execution of such a move in the absence a legally binding deal.
The second filling aims to collect around 18.4 bcm of Blue Nile water, up from the 4.9 bcm secured during the first filling last year.
Egypt’s 100 million-plus population is dependent on the Nile water for 95 percent of its renewable water needs.
The country fears that the massive $4.8 billion Ethiopian hydropower project will significantly diminish its crucial water supply, which is already below scarcity level.