Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt talks on mega-dam break down, again

Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt talks on mega-dam break down, again

Sudan expresses frustration after negotiations stall but Egypt, Ethiopia blame Sudanese objections for the new impasse.

Tensions have been high in the Nile basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on the dam in 2011 [File: Eduardo Soteras/AFP]

A new round of negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt aimed at resolving a long-running dispute about a giant dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile has broken down once again.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011, with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan worried it will restrict vital water supplies.

The prolonged dispute has continued even after the vast reservoir behind the 145-metre-tall (475-foot) dam began filling in July.

Last week, the three countries had agreed to hold further talks to agree upon the filling and operation of the reservoir. But the latest virtual meetings between foreign and water ministers “failed to reach an acceptable agreement to resume negotiations”, Sudan’s state-run SUNA news agency said on Sunday.

Khartoum objected to what it said was a January 8 letter from Ethiopia to the African Union stating that Ethiopia was determined to fill the reservoir for the second year in July with 13.5 million cubic metres of water, whether an agreement is reached or not.

“We cannot continue this vicious cycle of circular talks indefinitely,” Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas said in a statement.

However, Egypt and Ethiopia, in separate statements, blamed Sudanese objections to the framework for the talks for the new impasse.

The Ethiopian foreign ministry said in a statement that despite previously insisting on meetings with the African Union experts, Sudan objected to their terms of reference and refused to include the experts in the meeting, effectively halting the talks.

“Sudan insisted on the assigning of African Union experts to offer solutions to contentious issues … a proposal which Egypt and Ethiopia have reservations about,” Egypt’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Naledi Pandor, the foreign minister of South Africa – which chairs the African Union, voiced her “regret that the talks reached a dead end”, according to the Sudan News Agency.

Ethiopia, the second-most populous country in Africa, said the hydroelectric power produced by the dam will be vital to meet the power needs of its 110 million people and help reduce poverty levels.

Egypt, which depends on the Nile for nearly all of its irrigation and drinking water, has viewed the dam as an existential threat.

Khartoum has hoped Ethiopia’s dam will regulate annual flooding, but has also warned that millions of lives would be at “great risk” if no agreement was reached.

It said the water discharged from GERD dam “poses a direct threat” to the safety of Sudan’s Roseires Dam downstream on the Blue Nile.

The Nile, the world’s longest river, is a lifeline supplying both water and electricity to the 10 countries it traverses.

Its main tributaries, the White and Blue Nile, converge in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, before flowing north through Egypt to drain into the Mediterranean Sea


Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia say talks on disputed dam deadlocked

CAIRO (AP) — 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.

Foreign and irrigation ministers of the three nations met online for the second time in a week in efforts to find an agreed approach to resume their talks focused on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam.

Sunday’s meeting, held over videoconference, failed to find common ground to more forward, “because of differences over how to resume the talks and procedural aspects related to the negotiating process,” Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Cairo and Addis Ababa rejected the Sudanese proposal, Egypt’s foreign ministry said.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry also said Sudan on Sunday rejected a proposal by South African to meet separately with AU experts, insisting on expanding the role of the experts first.

Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said his government insists on maximizing the role of AU experts to have them facilitate the negotiations and bridge the gaps between the three countries, according to Sudan’s state-run SUNA news agency.

In November, Sudan boycotted talks called by South African, the current chairman of the African Union, and argued that the negotiating approach to resolve the dispute proved unfruitful.

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. Egypt and Sudan call for a legally binding agreement on the dam’s filling and operation, while Ethiopia insists on guidelines.

Ethiopia is building the dam on the Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile in Sudan to become the Nile River, and about 85% of the river’s flow originates from Ethiopia. Officials hope the dam, now more than three-quarters complete, will reach full power-generating capacity in 2023, helping pull millions of its people out of poverty.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with over 100 million people, called the dam an existential threat and worries that it would reduce its share of Nile waters. The country relies almost entirely on the Nile to supply water for agriculture and its people.

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.

1 thought on “Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt talks on mega-dam break down, again

  1. The Ethiopian delegates attending the GERD negotiation need t
    o be extremely cafefull not to agree into selling Ethiopia’s most treasured possession for the cheapest price of the century. Ethiopia needs environmental protection experts , international business experts and global economists who got extensive experience to weigh in before Ethiopia’s hands are twisted into giving up her natural resources along with her electricity for a ridiculously cheap price to the African Union (AU) member countries.,security%2C%20surprise%2C%20and%20simplicity.

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