Egypt says no breakthrough reached on second day of AU-sponsored GERD talks
Ahram Online, Saturday 4 Jul 2020

Egypt's irrigation ministry said on Saturday that a second day of fresh talks with Sudan and Ethiopia over the latter country's Blue Nile hydropower dam has yielded no tangible results.

The ongoing round of tripartite talks on the controversial Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) is held via video conference under the auspices of the African Union, which is currently headed by South Africa.

The online talks were also attended by 11 observers from the EU, United States, AU Commission, South Africa and AU's legal and technical experts.

Egypt's irrigation ministry said in a statement that no consensus was reached "at the technical and legal levels", with differences persisting over the filling and operation of the dam among other contentious issues.

It also said discussions will resume on Sunday by holding separate bilateral meetings between the observers and the three countries to "benefit from the experiences of the observers and receive their proposals, if necessary, regarding the points of contention".

The Sudanese irrigation ministry said in a statement that while the remaining technical differences are "limited", concluding an agreement would require more effort and political will.

It also said Khartoum's delegation reaffirmed its stance during Saturday's talks that any agreement should have a binding nature, adding that it should not be linked to any past water-sharing deals. Sudan also underlined the importance of agreeing on a comprehensive mechanism for resolving future disputes.

The previous round of negotiations, which were brokered by Khartoum from 9 to 17 June, failed to produce an accord due to Ethiopia's refusal to enter into a legally binding agreement.

In its letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on 24 June, Sudan said it had proposed a draft agreement that "ensured that the agreement to be signed will be legally binding and cannot be amended or terminated without the agreement of all three parties."

However, Sudan's letter added that Ethiopia proposed a document of "guidelines" that can be revised and in some cases terminated.

Ethiopia's insistence not to commit to a legally-binding agreement was previously highlighted by the Egyptian irrigation ministry, which said Ethiopia insisted on drafting "guiding rules that [it] can unilaterally amend."