FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
CAIRO – 10 June 2020: A meeting of the ministers of irrigation of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia has been held on Tuesday, June 9, to discuss the stance on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), three weeks after Sudan has offered to return to negotiations table.
The virtual meeting was attended by international observers from the United States, the European Union (EU) and South Africa, the current chair of the African Union (AU), a statement by the Egyptian Irrigation Ministry said.
“It is hard to describe the meeting as positive or [to say] it has reached any significant result, as it has focused on procedural issues that are relevant to the schedule of the meetings, the reference of the discussion, and the role and number of the observers,” the statement read.
However, the discussions have reflected a tendency by Ethiopia to reopen discussions on various issues related to GERD, including the insistence to start filling the reservoir in July 2020.
During the meeting, the Egyptian side has reiterated its unchangeable stance in this regard, including calling on Ethiopia to announce that it will not take any unilateral procedure concerning filling the reservoir until an agreement is reached.
Concerning the reference, Egypt has also affirmed the need to refer to the document prepared by the United States and the World Bank on February 21, 2020, based on the discussions between the three states of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, throughout the past months.
The observers should play the role of “facilitators,” the statement noted, adding that negotiations shall take place between June 9 to 13, to reach a full agreement on filling and operating the dam.
The participating parties have agreed to hold another meeting attended by the observers on June 10.
The Sudanese government has warned against filling the reservoir of the dam before reaching an agreement between the three countries involved in the dam issue.
Filling the dam's reservoir would affect Sudan more than any of the other parties due to the dam's proximity to the Roseires Dam in southern Sudan, Government Spokesman and Minister of Culture and Information Mohamed Saleh said in a statement on Monday.
The difference between the three Nile basin countries dates back to May 2011 when Ethiopia started building the dam; Egypt voiced concern over its water share [55.5 billion cubic meters]. Three years later, a series of tripartite talks between the two countries along with Sudan began to reach an agreement while Ethiopia continued the dam construction.
In 2015, the three countries signed the Declaration of Principles, per which the downstream countries [Egypt and Sudan] should not be negatively affected by the construction of the dam. Since then, the talks have been resumed, but In October 2019 blamed Addis Ababa for hindering a final agreement concerning a technical problem, calling for activating the Article No. 10 of the Declaration of Principles, which stipulates that if the three countries could not find a solution to these differences, they have to ask for mediation.
The National Security Council, led by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, met Tuesday to review a number of issues including the Renaissance Dam.
“The Arab Republic of Egypt has received Tuesday an invitation from the Sudanese minister of irrigation to resume the negotiations of the Renaissance Dam, and Egypt affirms its principled stance of permanent willingness to negotiate in order to reach a fair and balanced agreement that will achieve the interests of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan,” according to the statement.
The statement added that Egypt sees the invitation came late, three weeks after launching the initiative, “which necessitates setting a tight timeframe for negotiations to be held and concluded, in order to prevent it from becoming a new tool for procrastination and shirking from the obligations stipulated in the Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries in 2015.”
The statement further said that the Sudanese invitation comes on the same day the Ethiopian authorities “re-affirmed their intention to move forward in filling the reservoir of the Renaissance Dam without reaching an agreement, which is inconsistent with Ethiopia's legal obligations set in the Declaration of Principles, and necessarily casts a shadow on the negotiations’ path, as well as the results that may be reached.”
The statement affirmed that Egypt will participate in this meeting “to explore whether there is political will to reach an agreement, and to confirm the continuous Egyptian goodwill in this regard, in accordance with the invitation received from the Sudanese minister of irrigation."
Additional reporting by Samar Samir