The Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and Water Resources, of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia will meet via video conference, on Sunday, to discuss future steps in Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations.
The conference will take place under the auspices of the African Union (AU), which is currently chaired by South Africa.
A meeting between Foreign and Water Resources Ministers of the three countries, held on 3 January, called for a one-week round of negotiations to discuss both points of agreement and disputed points in the GERD agreement.
However, Sudan was absent from the first meeting, in opposition to the desired continuation of the direct tripartite negotiation mechanism.
In a statement by Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Egypt said that the parties agreed to raise the matter with South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor. This will ensure that future steps will be discussed during the six-party ministerial meeting, scheduled to be held on 10 January.
Egypt added that negotiations require the participation of the three countries involved in the Ethiopian dam negotiations, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, to reach a binding agreement regarding the rules for filling and operating the dam.
Sudan addressed the AU, on Friday, stressing its commitment to continue negotiations at any time, in the event that the methodology is amended by giving experts a greater role. At the same time, the country also highlighted that it “cannot, and does not, bear to proceed with endless negotiations that do not end with valuable results and solutions”.
It noted that the parties agreed to hold optional bilateral meetings between experts and each of the three countries separately, to discuss and identify points of difference in preparation for a second draft of the agreement.
Sudan has expressed its grave concern over Ethiopia’s announcement that it will proceed with the second phase filling of its Dam by next July. Ethiopia was threatening to start this phase, which has a capacity of 13.5bn cbm, without prior notification and without signing an agreement or exchange of information with the Rosaries Reservoir.
Sudan considered the matter a “direct threat to the Rosiers Dam and the lives of the residents on the banks of the Nile”. It added, “The negative impact of the first filling in July 2020 (about 5bn cbm) caused problems at drinking water stations in the capital, Khartoum.”
The Ethiopian dam file was one of the main points behind the visit by US Secretary of the Treasury, Stephen Mnuchin, to Cairo and Khartoum in the past week. Mnuchin’s visits included meetings with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Aaty, along with senior officials in Sudan.
Abdel Aaty assured prominent US officials of Egypt’s clear desire to complete the negotiations while adhering to its own principles in preserving its water rights and achieving benefit for all in any agreement on the Renaissance Dam. The minister also stressed Egypt’s endeavour to reach a fair and binding legal agreement to meet the aspirations of all countries in development.
Mnuchin led Washington’s negotiations on the Ethiopian Dam, in late 2019 and early 2020, in which Ethiopia was absent from its last meeting, when the agreement was scheduled for signing.
Hours before the 3 January meeting, Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy Selishi Bekele announced that 78% of the construction work on the Ethiopian Dam had been completed.