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Sudan reports progress on Ethiopia’s dam filling talks

GERD (Reuters (photo)June 13, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Discussions between the three Nile countries on the filling of the $4-billion Ethiopian dam have made progress on Sunday and tasked Sudan with drafting an agreement on the pending issues, according to the Sudanese government.

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan - with the participation of South Africa the chair of the African Union, EU and the U.S. as observers - held a fourth videoconference meeting to settle the difference over the amount of water annually released for the downstream countries particularly Egypt during the long-term filling of the dam which may take about nine years.

In a statement released in Khartoum, the Sudanese irrigation ministry which chaired Sunday’s meeting said that the parties engaged discussions on the basis of a "consensual document" it sent to the two other parties after a meeting on Thursday.

"The discussions of today’s meeting focused on the technical aspects of filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) under normal rainy seasons, during one dry season or prolonged periods of dry years as well as long term operation mechanism," reads the statement.

At the end of the meeting, the parties agreed that Sudan would draft "a new consensual document based on the comments of the three countries during today’s (Sunday’s) meeting," further said the ministry.

Also, they agreed to meet on Monday 15 June to discuss the new draft by the Sudanese government and evaluate the negotiation process and the next steps consequently.

According to the initial deadline, the parties had to wrap up the talks on Saturday 13 June.

The Sudanese irrigation ministry said that the participant agreed on most technical issues except for some limited details. Furthermore, the parties discussed the legal aspects of the agreement.

While the disagreement on the amount of water released during the filling process is mainly between Egypt and Ethiopia, Sudan wants a coordination mechanism to be established to protects its two dams on the Blue Nile.

On Sunday before the meeting, the spokesman of the Egyptian irrigation Mohamed al-Sebai said that Ethiopia lacks a political will to reach a negotiated agreement on the Blue Nile’s water.

Later, he told Egyptian TV channels that Addis Ababa deals with the Blue Nile as private property and rejects to conclude an agreement with the downstream countries.

The talks on the GERD are considered as a national issue in Egypt and the media follow closely the process with a large coverage of the talks increasing pressure on the government.

On Friday 12 June, the Ethiopian irrigation ministry issued a statement about Thursday meeting saying the three countries discussed the Guidelines and Rules the Ethiopian government shared with the two downstream countries and a Sudanese proposal.

"Ethiopia reiterated the need for the three countries to focus on and approach the negotiation with good faith and commitment to achieve a win-win outcome," added the Ethiopian irrigation ministry according to the Ethiopian news agency.

(ST)