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Egypt, Ethiopia reject Sudan’s proposal for African mediation

GERD (Reuters photo)January 10, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Egypte and Ethiopia declined a Sudanese proposal to establish an African Union mediation team that can broker a deal on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The three countries, for nine years, have been negotiating in vain to strike a deal on the filing of the giant hydropower dam that Ethiopia is building at 15 km from the Sudanese border.

During the past months, Sudan said the three parties have different interests and need an external party to facilitate the negotiations. Therefore, Khartoum proposed to establish a mediation team from Africa experts appointed by the African Union.

The foreign and irrigations ministers of the three riparian countries held a videoconference on Sunday to discuss how to resume discussions in the GERD process. Sudan had suspended its participation in the direct negotiations calling to agree on the African experts before to resume discussions.

"Egypt and Ethiopia made reservations about this proposal, stressing on the ownership of the negotiation process by the three countries in order to preserve their right to draft the texts and provisions of the agreement on the GERD filling and operation," said a statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry.

During the past two years, Egypt and Ethiopia sought to impose their positions in the talks and accused Sudan of siding the other party. Also, the Sudanese officials said they spend their time seeking to reconcile the positions of Egypt and Ethiopia instead of speaking about the interests of their country.

For his part, the Sudanese irrigation minister stated that his country "cannot continue indefinitely in this vicious cycle of talks".

Yasir Abbas further disclosed that they had been informed by the Ethiopian irrigation minister about their plan to launch next July the second phase of the GERD reservoir filing by 13.5 billion Cubic meters.

Abbas added that Khartoum filed a strong protest to the Ethiopian government and the African Union about this decision.

Ethiopia said they have obligation to inform the downstream countries about the filling and operating procedures or exchange data about them, he underscored

This step "Constitutes a serious threat to Sudanese water installations and half of the Sudanese population," he stressed.

Sudanese officials say the unilateral filing of GERD reservoir will put millions of lives and communities at risk and represent a direct threat to the Roseires Dam which is one-tenth smaller in size.