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Sudan calls for U.S. pressures on Ethiopia over GERD filling

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A satellite image shows the GERD and the Blue Nile on 26 June 2020 (Maxar Technologies- Reuters)March 31, 2021 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan has called on the United States to pressure Ethiopia not to fill its giant dam before reaching a legally binding agreement with the riparian countries, while several Arab countries expressed their support for Egypt and Sudan.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stated on Tuesday that his government would not allow any prejudice to Egypt’s right to the waters of the Nile as a result of the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

"No one can take a drop of water from the waters of Egypt. Whoever wants to try, let him try. But this would destabilize the whole region," he stressed on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Mahdi held a meeting with the visiting U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Donald Booth to discuss the GERD and bilateral relations between Khartoum and Wahington.

"The Minister called on the United States to engage constructive negotiations that would lead to convincing Ethiopia not to fill (the dam) without the consent of the concerned parties," said the Sudanese foreign minister in a statement issued after the meeting.

"Ethiopia’s unilateral actions have undermined mutual trust between the two countries," Al-Mahdi further added to explain the shift of the Sudanese position after the unilateral first phase of GERD filling in July 2020.

Sudan has proposed the four-way mediation mechanism after realising that "Ethiopia was manoeuvring to buy time" to complete the second filling of the dam, the minister stressed.

The quadripartite mediation that Sudan proposes, with the support of Egypt, provides forming a mechanism headed by the African Union, with the participation of the European Union, the United Nations and the United States.

Ethiopia opposes the proposal and says it accepts only an African mediation.

In a related development, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, the Sultanate of Oman and Kuwait, in addition to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, declared their support for Egyptian and Sudanese position on the GERD filling and operation. The UAE, for its part, called for the resumption of negotiations under international laws.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed the Kingdom’s support for Egypt and Sudan.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia "affirms that their water security is an integral part of Arab security, and affirms its support for any efforts that contribute to settling the issue of the Renaissance Dam and take into account the interests of all parties, (...) in accordance with international laws and standards."

For their part, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan issued statements similar to the Saudi one.

The UAE foreign ministry stressed the need to negotiate under "applicable international laws and standards to reach a solution acceptable to all and secures the rights and water security of the three countries."

Abu Dhabi is seeking to narrow the gaps between the three countries and has established separate discussions with the three countries over the matter.

In the same vein, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which includes 26 African countries, called for continuing negotiations to reach a comprehensive and fair agreement that preserves the rights and interests of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, which is facing growing international pressure, declared its adherence to African mediation and declined the four-way mediation.

Before coming to Sudan, Booth met with the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen to discuss the tripartite process on the GERD.

"Ethiopia is keen to sustaining the African Union-led talks under the Chairmanship of the Democratic Republic of the Congo," said the Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman on 29 March when he referred to the meeting of Mekonnen and Booth.

"Talks to change the modalities of the negotiations should be treated according to the provisions of the DOP, which was signed by the tripartite in 2015," he further stressed.

Ethiopia says determined to carry out next July the second phase to fill the reservoir of the hydropower dam with 13.5 billion-cubic-meter.

Sources close to the file say Ethiopia proposed to coordinate with Sudan to protect its downstream dams. However, Khartoum stressed the need to put it in a tripartite legally binding agreement over all the outstanding issues.

(ST)

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