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Ramaphosa to consult Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan leaders over stalled GERD talks

A satellite image shows the GERD and the Blue Nile on 26 June 2020 (Maxar Technologies- Reuters)
September 27, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who is also the head of African Union Bureau would consult the heads of state and government of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt to decide on the next step in the stalled talks on the Ethiopian dam.

Talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) failed to make progress after the unilateral first phase of the filing of its reservoir and demand by Addis Ababa to adopt a new approach to negotiations, putting aside what had been agreed in the past years.

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

However, the Ethiopian proposal triggered a strong Sudanese rejection. Khartoum reiterated that its commitment to what had been agreed and called for a legally binding agreement over the mechanism for resolving future disputes, and how to manage the dam during drought periods.

In a letter to the irrigation and foreign ministers in three countries on 23 September, Naledi Pandor South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation said she would consult the African Union Chairperson on the current pause in negotiations.

"Given the lack of progress in the process, it is perhaps best that the AU Chair President Ramaphosa reverts to the Bureau and the Heads of state of the negotiating parties," Pandor said in her letter seen by Sudan Tribune.

"The African Union Commission will advise as to the date of the next meeting," she further stressed.

The parties had to meet on 14 September but Khartoum declined the meeting as it calls to reshape the process and that the African Union, the European Union and the United States should be more involved in the process than playing the observers.

Sudanese officials say the talks are in a vicious cycle as every party sticks to its position. A mediator can bring the parties to reconcile their positions, they say.
On Friday, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told the UN General Assembly that his country has no intention of harming Sudan and Egypt with a giant hydropower dam on the Blue Nile.

“I want to make it abundantly clear that we have no intention to harm these countries,” he said in a pre-recorded video statement.

"We are steadfast in our commitment to addressing the concerns of downstream countries and reaching a mutually beneficial outcome in the context of the ongoing AU-led process," further stressed Abiy said.

Earlier this month, The United States suspended $130 million in aid because of the unilateral first stage of the filling of the dam last July.