Ethiopia says ‘negotiated agreement’ only way to resolve GERD differences
Ahram Online, , Tuesday 14 Jul 2020
The latest round of talks had agreed on the need for a legally binding mechanism to settle disputed, a Sudanese negotiator says

A "negotiated agreement" is the only way out to resolve the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the Ethiopian irrigation ministry said on Tuesday, and the African Union is best suited to resolve the differences.

Cairo, Addis Ababa, and Khartoum have been engaged in virtual talks since 3 July, mediated by the African Union, in a bid to resolve the disagreements on the mega-dam, which is under construction on the Blue Nile.

The 11-day round of talks wrapped up on Monday without a final agreement, however.

Ethiopia's irrigation ministry said on Tuesday that it is committed to showing flexibility to reach a win-win outcome on all outstanding issues, adding that the commitment to reach a mutually beneficial outcome “is the only avenue."

The statement touched upon the differences between the three nations, which it said included the impact of the guidelines and rules on Ethiopia’s future use of the GERD.

“The absence of a comprehensive treaty governing the relation of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan with regard to the Nile is the major factor that poses a challenge … unchanged stances and additional and excessive demands of Egypt and Sudan prohibited the conclusion of this round of negotiation by an agreement.”

Cairo said this weekend that Ethiopia's continued adherence to its “rigid” stances on both the technical and legal aspects of the differences over the hydropower project would “reduce the chances of reaching an agreement.”

The Egyptian negotiators voiced their concerns about Ethiopia's failure to address rules regulating the filling and operation of the GERD during drought and dry years.

Egypt is also concerned about future projects on the Blue Nile, a main tributary of the Nile, and demands binding dispute settlement mechanisms.

A member of Sudanese legal negotiation committee, Hesham Kahen, said on Monday that the three countries had agreed to include “a legally binding mechanism to settle disputes,” a Sudanese news agency reported.

Creating the mechanism was the only remaining part, he said.

The proposed mechanism starts with “binding and active mediation” and if the parties fail to reach consensus, the mediator will issue “a binding and final say for all,” according to the Sudanese negotiator.

The three countries have now been sent reports on the negotiations to South Africa, the current president of the AU.

A mini-African summit is set to be held in the coming days.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry described the conclusion of the online talks without agreement as "a regrettable matter,” stressing that Cairo doesn’t want to resort to the United Nations Security Council again.

The Ethiopian irrigation ministry said on Tuesday that the AU-led process is best suited to negotiate and resolve the differences.

A previous round of negotiations in June had failed to produce an accord due to Ethiopia's refusal to enter into a legally binding agreement and its announcement that it will begin filling the dam in July with or without the approval of the two downstream countries.

Egypt, as a result, presented a draft resolution for deliberation to the UN Security Council, which encouraged the three countries to reach an accord within two weeks, and avoid any unilateral measures related to the dam.