CAIRO, 3 March 2021 – Egypt on Thursday reiterated its determination to workfor a fair, balanced, and legally-binding deal on how to manage the Ethiopian mega dam on the Nile River.
Downstream countries – Egypt and Sudan – demand a binding deal before the start of the second phase filling and the management of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The Ethiopian government has insisted that it will proceed with a second phase of filling the dam next July, with or without a binding agreement.
Egypt’s deputy foreign minister for African Affairs Hamdy Loza articulated his country’s vision on how the decade-long dispute can be resolved during a briefing in Cairo to Arab and European ambassadors in the country.
The briefing came a day after an envoy from the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) Felix Tshisekedi, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the African Union, visited Egypt to express the desire of Tshisekedi to revive the stalled negotiations.
Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry conveyed Cairo’s support to the idea of setting up an international quartet committee to mediate the dispute over the GERD in disucssions with the Congolese envoy, Alphonse Ntumba.
Shoukry said the quartet would push negotiations forward and assist the three Nile River countries (Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan) into reaching a much desired, but so far elusive agreement.
The creation of an international quartet committeewas put forward by Sudan.
It would be under the brokerage of the African Union with the participation of the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations as observers, all in a bid to end the impasse over the mega dam.
The United States and the European Union have already been participating in the talks.
The African Union has been mediating the talks between the three countries since last year, when South Africa held the rotating African Union presidency.
Shoukry expressed hope that the Congolese presidency of the African Union can play a “key role” to help reach a legally binding agreement on the rules of filling and operating the $4.6 billion Ethiopian dam.
The talks ran into a deadlock in January due to Khartoum’s withdrawal from the latest meetings in objection to the methodology upon which the talks had been held.
The Sudanese proposal would give the negotiations “political momentum”, Loza said.
Under the proposal, Sudan wants the three countries to give a bigger role to the experts, including their involvement in the talks, instead of prioritizing direct discussions at political level between the three nations – Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Egypt fears that Ethiopia’s mega dam will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the Nile River, while Sudan has concerns over how the reservoir will be managed and how it will worsen flooding or droughts in Sudan.
Ethiopia completed the first filling of the dam last summer and announced plans to complete the second filling in July without waiting for a deal to be signed.