Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agree to resume GERD negotiations

Cheryl Sanders
June 30, 2020

The Extraordinary Meeting of the Bureau of the African Union Assembly held on Friday was attended by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki, AU Chairperson and South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, President Uhuru Kenyatta, and President Felix Tshisekedi of DRC.

However, Andargachew explained that his country prefers negotiating on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Sticking points in the talks have been how much water Ethiopia will release downstream from the dam if a multi-year drought occurs and how Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan will resolve any future disagreements.

Accordingly, the three countries have agreed to conclude the negotiation and try to reach an agreement within the next two weeks.

Ethiopia, which is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which worries its downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan, only confirmed "fruitful discussions" with the help of the African Union, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

On Friday, the three countries agreed to form a committee of legal and technical experts to draft a final binding deal, and to "refrain from taking any unilateral measures, including the filling of the dam, before the agreement is reached", the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.

Ethiopia has hinged its development ambitions on the mega-project, describing the dam as a crucial lifeline to bring millions out of poverty.

Egypt, which relies on the Nile for more than 90% of its water supplies and already faces high water stress, fears a devastating impact on its booming population of 100 million.

The GERD is a large-scale hydroelectric dam project under construction in Ethiopia's Benishangul-Gumuz region on the Blue Nile River.

Ethiopia had previously pushed to start filling the very big Nile River dam next month despite vehement opposition from downstream Egypt and Sudan, and the dispute was raised with the United Nations last week.

The Security Council was expected to hold a public meeting tomorrow to discuss the issue.

The committee will also include leaders of Kenya, Mali and Kongo, as well as global observers - which include the U.S., the EU and South Africa, the current chairman of the African Union.

Egypt previously made a decision to request the United Nations Security Council's intervention in the dispute on Ethiopia's massive dam, after Egypt had said several times that the two countries have reached a deadlock. On the UNSC, China-which has given $16 billion in loans to Ethiopia- has the most at stake in the dam's filling.

The AU said that the three countries displayed a constructive and positive approach in the negotiations, urging the three parties "to expeditiously work towards finding a mutually acceptable and amicable solution on the outstanding technical and legal issues in the negotiation process".

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