Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are set to resume contentious tripartite negotiations regarding the filling and operating of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Sunday.
These negotiations will again be conducted under the auspices of the African Union’s (AU) presidency of South Africa, with AU experts to present specific positions and differences between the three countries.
However, Sudan’s participation remains uncertain after it informed the AU on Thursday of its concerns about Addis Ababa’s announcement to proceed with filling the GERD for the second year in July without prior notification, signing an agreement or sharing information.
The Sudanese Minister of Irrigation Yasser Abbas sent a letter to Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, who is presiding over the negotiations, warning that Ethiopia’s declaration represents a direct threat to the Roseires Dam and residents living on the banks of the Nile.
He referred to the negative impacts caused by the first filling in July 2020 on drinking water stations in the capital Khartoum.
Abbas affirmed that his country is committed to continuing negotiations on the dam under the auspices of the AU, but only if the methodology is modified by giving experts a greater role.
“Sudan does not tolerate nor can it bear to proceed with endless negotiations, without results or solutions,” he said.
The three parties have held several rounds of negotiations over the past years, but have ultimately failed to reach an agreement.
The construction of the dam, which began in 2011, is considered to be one of Egypt’s most serious water issues.
Egypt, which relies considerably on freshwater from the Nile, has voiced fears that the GERD would negatively impact the country’s water supply, and has insisted that measures be put in place to protect downstream countries in case of drought during the dam’s filling process.
Ethiopia, on the other hand, has stressed the importance of the project to bolster its economy, where more than half of the population currently lives without access to electricity.
Sudan is somewhat caught in the middle of the conflicting interests of Egypt and Ethiopia. There is potential for the country to develop further with the GERD’s operation, but government officials worry that it could also threaten preexisting dams.