US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said in a meeting with Ethiopian officials on Monday that his country is committed to helping Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia find a win-win outcome under the AU-led Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations, Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Seleshi Bekele said in a statement.
This is the fourth stop for Feltman – after Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea – in a tour to discuss the GERD and regional issues after assuming his position in the region last week.
Gedion Asfaw, a member of the Ethiopian GERD negotiating group who attended the discussion, told Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) that the US special envoy was told that Ethiopia would move forward with the second filling of the dam this rainy season.
Asfaw claimed that the filling would be carried out according to the direction set by the experts of all three countries, and that Ethiopia was committed to consolidating the tripartite negotiations mediated by the African Union.
Regarding the role of observers, the Ethiopian team told the Special Envoy that observers are expected to provide support to the three countries but not intervene to violate the rights of any of them.
Tensions have mounted in the past weeks after the latest trilateral round of talks in Kinshasa earlier in April failed to produce an agreement to re-launch the deadlocked negotiations.
Ethiopia’s rejection of several proposals by Egypt and Sudan on the negotiation mechanism, which includes an international quartet mediation, led to the collapse of the Kinshasa talks.
Last year, several rounds of AU-sponsored talks, under the chairmanship of South Africa, failed to break the deadlock among the three countries, as Addis Ababa refused to sign any legally binding agreement.
The three countries have resorted to diplomacy in the past weeks, briefing regional and international counterparts on their stances and the developments in the latest deadlock in negotiations.
The efforts come as Ethiopia remains unwavering in moving forward with the second filling of the dam — set to take place in July — despite the objections of Egypt and Sudan over the execution of such a move in the absence of 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.