African Union announces failure of latest talks on Ethiopia's Nile Dam

Cheryl Sanders
January 13, 2021

"Ethiopia and Sudan accepted the draft document of the AU on the continuation of the trilateral negotiation, a defined role of the AU experts".

The online summit between the three countries' respective foreign and irrigation ministers stumbled over the failure to find "common ground" to resume talks on operations related to The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), read an Egyptian foreign ministry statement.

The six-way talks on GERD failed to make any progress, due to a disagreement on how to resume the negotiations and other procedural aspects of the negotiating process.

The Ministers of Water Resources of the three countries agreed to return the file to the African Union.

"We can not continue this vicious cycle of round talks indefinitely, considering that the GERD represents a direct threat to the Roseires Dam, which has a reservoir capacity less than 10% of the GERD's capacity if the filing and the operations of the GERD starts without an agreement and daily exchange of information", Abbas said.

In its own statement on state news agency SUNA, Sudan said it objected to what it said was a January 8 letter from Ethiopia to the AU stating that Ethiopia was determined to fill the reservoir for the second year in July with 13.5 million cubic meters of water, whether an agreement is reached or not.

He stressed that Khartoum was concerned the dam could overwhelm its nearby Roseires dam if an agreement is not reached that would allow the countries to share data.

The Sudanese government warned that it would withdraw from Sunday's meeting if its demand of granting a bigger role for experts was not met, the Saudi-owned news website Asharq reported, citing Sudanese diplomatic sources.

Key questions in the negotiations remain on how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the three countries would settle any future disputes.

This new round of meetings comes under the presidency of South Africa, which now chairs the African Union, and aims to reach a binding agreement on the rules for filling and operating the Renaissance Dam.

Sudan, in the middle between Ethiopia and Egypt, warries that the dam would affect its own dams, though it stands to benefit from access to possible cheap electricity.

South Africa is now the chair of the African Union.

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia failed to achieve a breakthrough in the African Union-led talks to revolve their years-long dispute over the controversial dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, the three countries announced on Sunday.

According to a brief by the European Parliament, successive negotiation rounds between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt about the filling and operation of the GERD have ended in stalemate.

Ethiopia says the 145-meter tall dam will be an engine of development and is vital to meet the power needs of its population.

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