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GERD talks to resume on Sunday after one-month halt
Published in Ahram Online on 02 - 01 - 2021

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are scheduled to resume on Sunday, 3 January after a one-month impasse due to Sudan's withdrawal from the African Union (AU) mediated negotiations.

The Sudanese news agency SUNA said on Saturday that Sudan's acting Foreign Minister Omar Gamar Edeen and Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Yasser Abbas will participate in the GERD negotiations scheduled to resume on Sunday under chairmanship South Africa, the current AU Chairperson.

SUNA quoted a liable source as saying that "the meeting will discuss Sudan's proposal aimed at reactivating the negotiations by giving a greater role to the AU experts" so as to reach an abiding legal agreement on GERD, which Ethiopia had started building on the Blue Nile since 2011.

In late November, Sudan decided not to take part in the latest tripartite ministerial meeting on the GERD issue, which was scheduled for 21 November, objecting to the adopted methodology of negotiations, saying that the "method followed in negotiating during the past rounds has proven to be unproductive."

Egypt and Sudan have been in talks with Ethiopia for years now to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operating of the $4.8 billion near-complete mega dam.

South Africa has been mediating negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to resolve the dispute over the near-complete dam.

On 26 December, El-Sisi reaffirmed Egypt's stance on the imperative need to formulate a binding agreement with Sudan and Ethiopia on the GERD during a phone call with South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The Egyptian president stressed the importance of a binding agreement that would secure Egypt's water rights during the filling and the operating of the dam, as the Nile's water is an existential matter for Egyptian people, according to a statement by the presidency.

Cairo and Khartoum have insisted that the three countries sign a binding legal agreement on disputed issues surrounding GERD to safeguard the interests of the three parties, a demand that has been declined by Addis Ababa for the sake of the agreement to have non-binding guidelines.

Cairo, that has more than 85 percent of its Nile water flow from Ethiopian highlands, fears the massive hydropower project will significantly cut its crucial water supplies, which is already below scarcity level, from the River Nile. While Sudan fears GERD – which is built 15 kilometres from the Ethiopian border with Sudan – could endanger the safety of its own dams.

On the other hand, Ethiopia says the 6,000-megawatt dam is key to its development and hopes to become Africa's biggest electricity exporter.

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