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Sudan, Egypt reiterate calls for binding agreement on Ethiopia’s giant dam

October 27, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese and Egyptian heads of state reiterated the need for a legally-binding agreement on the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Tuesday as a tripartite committee met on the same day to prepare the resumption of talks.

Al-Burhan and Al-Sisi pose after a meeting on the GERD on 27 Oct 2020 (ST photo)Last July, Ethiopia brushed aside the negotiations under the Khartoum Declaration of Principles of 2015. Instead, Addis Ababa proposed to negotiate a guidelines-and-rules agreement on the first filling of the dam that could be unilaterally modified and even repealed in certain cases.

The head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, was in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss with President Abel Fattah al-Sisi, the stalled crisis of the giant dam.

In a statement released at the end of the one-day visit, the spokesman of the Egyptian presidency stated that both al-Burhan and President al-Sisi reiterated their commitment to the initial 2015 declaration and called for a legally-binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam.

Bassam Radi went on to say that the two leaders agreed on the water issue’s significance to the Egyptian and Sudanese peoples, as it is also "an issue of national security".

"So, the two countries adhered to reaching a binding legal agreement," he stressed.

It is worth mentioning that Sudan had called for a greater role for the African Union, the EU, and the U.S., suggesting that they become mediators rather than mere observers or facilitators.

However, Ethiopia is now accusing the U.S. of being biased particularly after the recent statement by President Trump that “They (Egypt) will end up blowing up the dam” due to the Ethiopian intransigence in the ongoing talks.

Ethiopian officials, including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and Former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, have firmly condemned and rejected Trump’s “threat,” which they believe to be a declaration of his pro-Egypt position.

On Tuesday, the irrigation ministers of the three countries took part in a videoconference meeting convened by the South African foreign minister with the presence of the US and EU as observers.

After Tuesday the meeting, Sudanese Minister of Irrigation, Yasir Abbas, issued a statement in Khartoum reiterating his country’s insistence on continuing negotiations with the same previous approach.

"Sudan submitted a proposal to give a greater role to experts and observers in the negotiation process to narrow the gaps in the positions of the three parties," said Abbas in a statement to the official news agency SUNA.

The meeting agreed that Sudan calls for a follow-up meeting within a week to submit a report to the AU chairman on ways to achieve substantial progress in the stalled negotiations.

The Minister concluded that the parties agreed to set a clear and detailed agenda, a strict timetable for the negotiation, and a clear list of the goals that must be reached with the help of observers and experts — a manner different from the previous rounds.