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Sudan, Egypt call for legally binding agreement on Ethiopia’s dam

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Sudan's Hamdok receives Egypt's PM Matbouly at Khartoum airport on 15 August 2020 (ST photo)August 15, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan and Egypt agreed on Saturday that negotiations are the "best way" to solve the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis, and called for a "legally binding agreement."

Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly was in Khartoum on Saturday where he held a series of meetings with the Sudanese officials to discuss ways to enhance joint cooperation.

He also reiterated Egypt’s support for the transitional government and voiced his country’s readiness to activate all the previously signed cooperation agreements but frozen during the area of the former President Omer al-Bashir.

The visit intervenes as Sudan seemingly on its way to reconsider its close relations with the Ethiopian government after the recent developments in the talks on the GERD. Addis Ababa ignored Khartoum efforts to settle the dispute over the filling of the giant dam but also turned its back to Sudanese interests.

"The two sides renewed their commitment to negotiations (on the GERD filling and operation) as the best way to achieve the interests of the peoples of the region and expressed their aspiration for the success of the negotiations under the auspices of the African Union," reads a statement released at the end of the visit.

The two countries further stressed the need to "negotiate a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam" based on the Khartoum Declaration of Principles of 2015, and not to cause significant harm to other watercourse states.

Ethiopian rejects any agreement on the GERD under international law, saying it would affect its future projects. Instead, it submitted a proposal providing that the deal be a guidelines and rules agreement on the first filling of the dam that could be unilaterally modified in some aspects and even repealed in certain cases.

Last Monday, the tripartite talks have been postponed for a week on the demand of the Sudanese government. Khartoum said they need more time for internal consultations as Ethiopia had called for new process brushing aside all that had been agreed during the past years.

Last Tuesday 4 August, Ethiopia proposed an immediate agreement on the first filling of the mega-dam to be followed by new negotiations "to finalize a comprehensive agreement in subsequent periods"

The Ethiopian proposal to separate the filling and operation of the dam triggered a strong Sudanese rejection because Sudan was more interested in the operation of the Ethiopian dam which is built not far from a small Sudanese dam that will be damaged by the GERD.

Analysts say the Ethiopian ruling party, EPRDF, and its reformist prime minister who is facing turbulent transition, seek to use the GERD issue to mobilize popular support after the growing criticism for his authoritarian style and postponement of general elections from August 2020 to May 2021.

Hamdok and Madbouly also stressed the need to agreeing on an effective and binding mechanism for settling disputes, and another mechanism for coordination between the three countries to ensure the safe operation of all water facilities and projects affected by the dam.

Furthermore, the two sides urged to stop taking any unilateral measures before reaching an agreement between to the three parties, alluding the first phase of the filling that Ethiopia enforced without even informing the two downstream countries.

Sudan and Ethiopia relations were enhanced and consolidated during the era of the al-Bashir regime but the transitional government continued to develop it as many of its members including Hamdok support the establishment of a regional market between the Horn of Africa countries.

(ST)

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