CAIRO: Egypt has urged the need for an agreement “at the earliest possible time” with Sudan and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) ahead of the second phase of its operation.
The three countries have agreed to bilateral meetings with experts to negotiate the filling of the dam’s reservoir.
Egypt said that the agreement should “achieve the common interests of the three countries,” but at the same time “secure Egypt’s rights and water interests.”
The comments came during a tripartite meeting between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia that discussed resuming negotiations on filling and operating the dam. The talks were held in the presence of African Union experts and international observers, headed by South Africa.
In a statement, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the meeting reached an agreement to hold a round of negotiations between the three parties, extended for one week, with the aim of discussing substantive aspects and points of disagreement on the dam agreement, in the presence of observers who are taking part in negotiations and experts appointed by the African Union Commission.
At the end of this week, another six-party ministerial meeting will be held, chaired by South Africa, to consider the outcomes of the tripartite negotiation round.
The Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources said that the three countries reviewed their positions regarding an agreement that would allow negotiations to resume, in light of the “positive development” of experts submitting a memorandum of agreement for the three countries.
The ministry added in a statement that Sudan welcomes the development, but considers it “insufficient” due to the absence of a “clear role” for experts in facilitating negotiations and proposing solutions for future issues.
The statement said that the meeting concluded with the adoption of Sudan’s proposal that the coming week be devoted to trila-teral meetings between the three countries and a group of experts and observers.
The minister of international cooperation in South Africa urged the future meetings to identify points of agreement and disagreement between the three countries, provided that they resume on Jan. 10.
South Africa said it hoped that negotiations will conclude by the end of January, before the end of its African Union presidency.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Irrigation said that ministers of the three countries exchanged views on the continuation of tripartite negotiations by focusing on a draft document presented by experts commissioned by the head of the African Union.
The ministry added that construction of the Renaissance Dam is 78 percent complete, and that Addis Ababa expressed a positive view of the draft document and stressed its willingness to use it as a unified working document for tripartite negotiations, confirming agreement on most issues related to the first filling and the annual operation of the dam.
However, Ethiopia warned that it “will not accept” any agreement that limits its right to use Nile waters, indicating its commitment to conclude negotiations and reach an agreement.
The three countries have held several rounds of talks since Ethiopia launched the GERD project in 2011, but are yet to reach an agreement on filling and operating the dam’s huge reservoir.