GERD talks must include filling, operation regulations: Sudan tells US

Amr Kandil , Thursday 30 Sep 2021

Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas reiterated on Thursday Khartoum’s rejection to engage in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations unless they include the regulations of filling and operation of the dam.

Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas holds a meeting with US special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman in Khartoum. Sudan's irrigation ministry

In a meeting with US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman in Khartoum, Abbas said the safety of Sudan’s Roseires Dam on the Blue Nile should come on top of the points to be negotiated, Sudan’s News Agency (SUNA) reported.

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Africa and the Sudans Bryan David Hunt and a number of officials at the US State Department and US Embassy in Khartoum attended the meeting.

Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia recently expressed their readiness to engage in the African Union-sponsored negotiations to resolve their decade-long dispute over the mega dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile.

The two downstream countries have grave concerns about the potential impact of the GERD, especially in light of Ethiopia's resistance of a binding deal on the filling and operation of the dam, a matter that Egypt and Sudan see as necessary.

Ethiopia implemented the first and second phases of filling the dam’s reservoir unilaterally in 2020 and 2021 without an agreement.

Abbas told Feltman that anticipated GERD negotiations should also tackle conducting environmental and social studies, the exchange of information, and all points related to the continuous safe operation of the GERD, Abbas said.

Sudan also demands the talks include an explanation of the negotiations’ approach to avoid the negative aspects that took place during previous rounds of talks.

During their meeting, Abbas and Feltman discussed the harms caused by Ethiopia’s unilateral filling of the dam last July and the costly measures Sudan has shouldered due to the lack of coordination and exchange of information with the Ethiopian side.

Earlier this month, Abbas sent a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart, Seleshi Bekele, complaining about Addis Ababa’s failure to furnish Khartoum with accurate information about the second filling.

Abbas affirmed to Feltman the need to implement all the points in the statement issued by the UN Security Council (UNSC) in mid-September during the talks sponsored by the African Union and to encourage the role of observers to facilitate the negotiations.

The UNSC’s statement encourages the three sides to return to the AU-sponsored talks to reach a binding deal within a reasonable timeframe.

Feltman and Abbas discussed Washington’s endeavours to ensure a legally-binding deal on GERD is reached at the earliest opportunity.

They also discussed the letters exchanged between the Sudanese and Ethiopian irrigation ministers over the month.

Addressing the 76th UN General Assembly (UNGA) General Debate earlier this week, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said Sudan suffered damages during the filling phases of GERD.

He noted that reaching a binding deal on GERD will “spare our country the probable damages that threaten the means of livelihood of half of Sudan’s population.”

Hamdok warned that the unilateral acts by the Ethiopian side “threaten the safety of operation of Sudan’s dams and negatively affect the irrigation of agricultural projects and drinking water plants.”

“We suffered some of these damages during the first unilateral filling last year and the second unilateral filling over the past weeks despite the numerous and costly preventive measures that we have taken to avoid these impacts,” Hamdok affirmed.

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