The tripartite committee on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) ended its tenth meeting on Saturday without reaching to agreement on key technical issues.
The meeting in Khartoum between irrigation and foreign ministers from Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia aimed at refreshing technical talks on the dam and addressing concerns from the Egyptian side.
However, after two days of discussions, the parties revealed that they had failed to reach an agreement on the issues, although they agreed to a new round of talks on 27 and 28 December.
A key sticking point for the talks is the question of whether technical studies should be completed before the full construction of the dam, which is being built across the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. The three nations had previously agreed on technical studies, identifying French and Dutch consultants to provide independent assessments.
However, according to Egypt, construction on the dam is now 40% complete and proceeding apace, while the technical studies are incomplete. Egypt has long feared that the dam might threaten its supply of Nile water, potentially causing drought.
Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Hossam El-Din Moghazy, said that the negotiations had been difficult. He said the next round of talks would continue to address completion of the studies, in line with agreements reached earlier this year.
According to a closing statement from Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, the three nations will resume discussions based on the framework of shared principles that were agreed in the 2014 Malabo agreement and the 2015 Khartoum declaration of principles.
The statement added that the discussions on Friday and Saturday were conducted in an atmosphere of “brotherhood, friendship, cooperation” – with a desire to find agreement and avoid all conflict.
“We are neither a mediator, nor are we neutral or biased, but we have rights, just like Egypt and Ethiopia. We are continuing with negotiations in the framework of our national interests, which entitle us to exchange viewpoints with the three parties,” Ghandour said.
In March, leaders of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt signed a declaration of principles that would pave the way for further diplomatic cooperation on the GERD, which has raised fears of a regional water-resource conflict.
Ghandour said the weekend talks mainly focused on the implementation of the declaration of principles signed between the presidents of the three countries. He stressed that his country’s stance towards the GERD is driven by national interests, and that the main goal is to implement the declaration of principles in order to reach to an abiding agreement.
Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Moataz Mousa, said the talks had not been a failure, and that the talks had been useful. He said that the next meeting would result in positive negotiations.
The GERD, scheduled to be completed in 2017, will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant with a storage capacity of 74bn cubic metres of water. Egypt has repeatedly expressed concerns that operating the dam on the Blue Nile will negatively affect Egypt’s water supply, whereas Ethiopia has always rejected these concerns.