Ethiopia’s disputed dam back to negotiating table 

Mohammed El-Said
3 Min Read

The legal and technical committees representing Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia resumed, on Tuesday, two parallel paths of discussions on the disputed points regarding the filling and operation of the Ethiopian dam.

The Tuesday meeting comes in accordance with the outcomes of the Monday talks that gathered the respective Ministers of Water Resources from the three countries. The previous meeting had been organised with hopes of reaching a legally binding agreement on the disputed points.

According to Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, the current round of talks will focus only on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The talks, which are guided by the African Union (AU), will not address future projects over the Blue Nile.

Negotiations are being observed by the AU Assembly Bureau, alongside representatives from AU member states, the US, and the European Union (EU). They had started on 27 July, before being postponed for the period of one week, upon Sudan’s request. 

Egypt’s former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Nasr El-Din Allam said that in the current round of talks, the Sudanese stance has become more pronounced. This comes in the wake of the negative impacts of the dam’s initial filling, which took place at the beginning of July with the start of the rainy season.

He added that the current talks have also revealed the AU’s sympathy towards Ethiopian claims for the right to construct projects over the Blue Nile without a trilateral agreement. Ethiopia’s stake in doing so violates the historic agreements in this regard. 

During the meetings, both Cairo and Khartoum have stressed that they reject any unilateral action regarding the filling of the dam’s reservoir without prior consensus between the three parties.

Sudan has called for an agreement to be reached on securing the safety of the Roseires dam, which lies the country, and exchanging data in this regard.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Seleshi Bekele, stressed his country’s commitment to “expeditiously finalise the process [talks] with a win-win outcome.”

Outcomes of the technical and legal teams’ meetings will be reviewed during the ministerial meeting on Thursday. The US, as an observer to the talks, said that time is running out for an agreement on GERD, with the State Department saying, “Time is short and the window to achieving an agreement may be rapidly closing; constructive and fruitful engagement among the three parties is encouraged.”

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Mohammed El-Said is the Science Editor for the Daily News Egypt with over 8 years of experience as a journalist. His work appeared in the Science Magazine, Nature Middle East, Scientific American Arabic Edition, SciDev and other regional and international media outlets. El-Said graduated with a bachelor's degree and MSc in Human Geography, and he is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at Cairo University. He also had a diploma in media translation from the American University in Cairo.