File Photo: Sudan's Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Yasser Abbas holds a press conference in the Sudanese capital Khartoum taken on June 14, 2021. AFP
Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said on Wednesday that his country “is not ready” to participate in the negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) under the same methodology adopted in previous talks, which Abbas described as “a waste of time.”
“Our demand is still to involve an international quartet in the [GERD] talks to boost the [mediating] role of the African Union,” Abbas said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Sudan had previously proposed improving the mechanism for negotiations by forming an international mediation quartet made up of the United Nations, the European Union, the US, and to be led by the African Union to resolve the decade-old dispute.
The Ethiopian refusal of the Sudanese proposal, which has been backed by Egypt, was the reason behind the collapse of the latest round of African Union-brokered talks held in Kinshasa in April.
Abbas also stressed that exchanging information about filling and operating the GERD “is an absolute necessity” and that a legally binding agreement in this regard “must be signed.”
Egypt and Sudan have been pushing for signing a comprehensive and legally binding agreement with Ethiopia over the GERD, while Ethiopia refuses and says it seeks mere guidelines that can be modified at any time at Addis Ababa’s discretion.
In response to Addis Ababa's claim that the GERD issue is a matter of Ethiopian national sovereignty, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has said that “there is no sovereignty when it comes to an international river.”
Abbas affirmed on Wednesday that the GERD could be beneficial to Sudan provided that information is exchanged with the Sudanese officials managing the Roseires Dam in accordance with a legally binding agreement.
Sudan’s Roseires Dam is located only 15km away from the GERD and has a reservoir that is 12 times smaller than the storage capacity of the GERD's 74 billion cubic metre (bcm) reservoir.
Sudan believes the GERD will completely change the flow regime of the Blue Nile by flattening its hydrograph, and with its gigantic size it "poses substantial threats to Sudan if not properly designed, constructed, filled and operated."
Sudan fears the GERD would put the operation of its Roseires dam and the lives of Sudanese citizens – 20 million Sudanese rely on the Blue Nile – at "a very high risk" if an agreement regulating its operation and filling is not reached.
Regarding Ethiopia’s unilateral second-year filling earlier in July, which Egypt and Sudan have rejected for being a serious breach of the Declaration of Principles Agreement, Abbas said: “it has not exceeded 4 bcm, which is much less than what had been previously declared by Ethiopia.”
Addis Ababa’s officials have repeatedly announced they would unilaterally fill GERD’s reservoir with 13.5 bcm in July and August to raise the build-up amount of water to 18.4 bcm, up from the 4.9 bcm it secured in 2020.
This came before Ethiopia's water and irrigation minister said in July that the construction of the GERD’s body had not reached the previously planned height needed for a full second-year filling.