AU announces failure of latest round of talks on Nile Dam

Khartoum, Jan 11 (IANS) The African Union (AU) has announced failure of the latest round of talks between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) built on the Nile river, according to a state media report.

On Sunday, Naledi Pandor, the international relations and cooperation minister of South Africa, expressed regret over the deadlock, Xinhua news agency quoted the report as saying.

Pandor said she would refer the matter to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, current chairperson of the AU, for necessary measures.

Meanwhile, Sudanese Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Yasir Abbas said Khartoum cannot continue with the negotiations without an agreement.

“We cannot continue with this vicious cycle of circular talks indefinitely given the direct threat posed by the GERD to (Sudan’s) Roseires Dam, the storage capacity of which is less than 10 per cent of that of the GERD, if it is filled and operated without agreement or daily exchange of data,” Abbas was quoted by the state media report as saying.

Khartoum has filed a strong protest to Ethiopia and the AU, sponsor of the GERD talks, over the letter sent by the Ethiopian irrigation minister to the bloc, Sudan and Egypt on January 8 in which he announced Ethiopia’s intention to continue filling the GERD on July 2 regardless of an agreement or not.

Earlier in the day, a six-party meeting of ministers of foreign affairs and irrigation of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia was convened, chaired by South Africa, to discuss their differences on GERD in order to reach a binding deal regarding the rules of filling and operation of the dam.

Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia have been negotiating under the mediation of the AU over technical and legal issues related to the filling and operation of the GERD.

The Sudanese negotiators believe that the GERD talks should go beyond the level of irrigation ministers to the level of the AU and the leaders of the three countries to provide political will to bring their positions closer.

Ethiopia, which started building the GERD in 2011, expects to produce more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity from the project.

But Egypt and Sudan, downstream Nile Basin countries that rely on the river for fresh water, are concerned that the dam might affect their water resources.

Over the past few years, tripartite talks on the rules of filling and operating the GERD have been fruitless, including those hosted by Washington.

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