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Sudan expresses ‘reservation’ on tripartite meeting on controversial dam

Sudan says it has “reservations” over participation in the Tripartite Ministerial meeting involving Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia on filling and operation of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being built on the Blue Nile.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

In a statement issued on Monday, January 4, 2021, the state-owned Sudan News Agency quoted the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources as saying that based on the outcome of the virtual Tripartite Ministerial Meeting held on Sunday, Sudan submitted a request to hold a bilateral meeting with the African Union (AU) experts and observers on the same day, but it did not receive a response. Instead, it received an invitation to resume the direct tripartite negotiations.

“This prompted Sudan to announce its reservation over the participation, confirming its firm position on the necessity of giving greater role to the African Union experts to facilitate negotiations,” the ministry stressed.

The statement underlined that the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources has affirmed its adherence to the AU-sponsored negotiation process according to the principle of African solutions to African problems.

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Ethiopia on its part said on Sunday that the virtual tripartite meeting saw the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Water Affairs of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan exchange views on the continuation of their negotiations.

The state-owned Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) quoted a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying these negotiations focus on a draft document presented by the experts assigned by the Chairperson of the African Union (AU).

The meeting was convened by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa and Chairperson of the AU Executive Council. It was also attended by observers and AU assigned experts.

ENA said Ethiopia voiced its “positive outlook” of the draft document and expressed its willingness to use it as a single working document for the trilateral negotiation.

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Similarly, it said, Sudan conveyed the importance of the document for the progress of the negotiation and its willingness to proceed with the negotiation with a defined role of the AU experts. Egypt categorically rejected the document, it added.

According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, most of the issues on the first filling and annual operation of the GERD have been agreed on.

The main difference lies on the co-relation between the GERD Guidelines and Rules and the future water development projects on the Abay Basin, it said.

“The GERD is a non-consumptive hydroelectric generating dam. Any agreement over the dam, which is being negotiated in the absence of a comprehensive water treaty and the prevalence of an unjust status quo, shall be considerate of these fundamental factors. Ethiopia will not agree to a GERD deal that will in any way restrict its right to use the Nile waters,” the statement stated.

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Ethiopia said it has forwarded alternative approaches to Egypt and Sudan, which is hoped to garner their affirmative response.

Tensions among the three countries over the dam began to rise after Ethiopia announced last year that it had started filling the reservoir.

Ethiopia has said the dam is essential for its development, while Egypt and Sudan worry about access to vital water supplies from the Nile.

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.

This new dam, built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile (the Nile’s main tributary), will bring into operation Africa’s largest hydropower plant.

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