Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt resume negotiations on Renaissance Dam

Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt are set to resume negotiations on the filling and operating of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam today under the auspices of the African Union.

Building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (MoFA Ethiopia)

Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt are set to resume negotiations on the filling and operating of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam today under the auspices of the African Union.

To resume the trilateral negotiations between Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the three country’s respective Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Irrigation will hold an ambassadorial meeting later today at the invitation of the African Union’s current president, South Africa. The videoconference, under the auspice of the African Union, takes place almost two months after the previous negotiations reached a dead end.

Sudanese Minister of Irrigation Yasir Abbas affirmed Sudan’s commitment to the negotiations and their aim to reach a binding agreement on the filling and operating of the GERD. However, in a letter addressed to the Minister of International Cooperation in South Africa, Abbas called for a new approach to the negotiations. He explained that Sudan cannot continue negotiations using the same methods that guided the previous negotiation rounds, which failed to reach any binding agreement. Therefore, he requested support for the upcoming negotiations in the form of a new mandate from the members of the African Union Commission.

The negotiations are set to resume a week after US President Donald Trump called the situation “really dangerous” and warned that “Cairo may blow up that dam” during a call with Sudanese and Israeli leaders about normalising relations with Israel.

These remarks heightened tensions between the USA, Egypt, and Ethiopia and provoked a firm response from Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who stated that “these threats and affronts to Ethiopian sovereignty are misguided, unproductive, and clear violations of international law” and that “Ethiopia will not cave in to aggressions of any kind”, as stated in a Reuters report.

The construction of the GERD has become a more important and controversial topic after Sudan experienced the worst Nile floods in 30 years, seriously affecting large parts of the country and leaving 115 people dead

Mega dam

In March 2011, Ethiopia announced its plans to build a large dam at the Blue Nile, in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, about 15 to 40 kilometres east of the border with Sudan, as a jointly funded, owned, and operated project between the three countries. Egypt and Sudan vehemently opposed the proposal. They claimed adverse effects on their Nile water rights and interests.

Khartoum later softened its position. Cairo, however, has warned that Ethiopia will not be able to unilaterally fill the dam without consequences.

Egypt relies on the Nile for more than 90 per cent of its water. The Blue Nile contributes approximately 85 per cent to the volume of the main Nile River.

In March 2015, the countries signed a Declaration of Principles in Khartoum as a basis for negotiations, but no breakthrough on the use of the Nile waters has been made since.

Addis Ababa began filling the reservoir in August, after indicating on several occasions that, even without an agreement, it would do so. This prompted new speculation on whether the three countries will be able to find common ground.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), when finished in 2022, will have a reservoir with a volume of more than 74 billion cubic metres, and a hydroelectric generating capacity of 6,450 megawatts.

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