Nile Dam Stalemate: Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia Talks at a Standstill

Another round of talks kicked-off days ago, this time led by the African Union to resolve the long dispute over a controversial dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile River. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia failed to make progress in the latest round of African Union-led talks. No favourable conclusion has been arrived at to date.

Ministers of the three countries met in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo to find an agreed approach to resume negotiations on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam.

Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), set to be Africa’s largest hydroelectric project, is seen by both downstream countries as a threat to their own water supply.

The four days of meetings concluded without a breakthrough after Ethiopia rejected a Sudanese proposal, backed by Egypt, to include international mediators in the talks.

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Ethiopia’s foreign minister, Demeke Mekonnen, in a brief statement posted on Facebook said his country appreciates the AU’s efforts to resume the AU-led process to reach a win-win outcome and invites Egypt and Sudan to follow suit.’

The foreign ministry in a separate statement asserted that Ethiopia cannot enter into an agreement that would foreclose its current and future legitimate rights over the utilization of the Nile.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Ahmed Hafez said Addis Ababa rejected expanding the mediation umbrella to include the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations along with the AU.

Sudan’s Irrigation Ministry also criticised Ethiopia’s announced plan to add 13.5 billion cubic meters of water to the dam’s reservoir this year as a real unacceptable threat.

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Sudan’s Irrigation Ministry believes Ethiopia’s intransigence would lead Sudan to look into all possible options to protect its security and citizens,”

Sudan wants Ethiopia to coordinate and share data on the dam’s operation to avoid flooding and protect its own power-generating dams on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile River.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry told a local television channel Tuesday that Egypt and Sudan would take the dispute to international organizations, including the U.N. Security Council.

The Congolese government, the talks’ host, also released a communique saying no breakthrough was made. President Félix Tshisekedi, the current head of the AU insists the Nile River must remain a fertile source of life and shared prosperity. 

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Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said last week his country’s share of Nile River waters were “untouchable” — a stark warning apparently to Ethiopia, which is preparing for another stage of the dam’s filling later this year.

The meeting is expected to resume in the third week of April.

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