Senior representatives of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt are set to meet again in Washington DC in January over outstanding issues related to the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan had agreed in Washington last month to hold four technical governmental meetings at the level of water ministers and that the World Bank and the United States would support and attend the meetings as observers.
The ministers also agreed to work toward completion of an agreement by January 15, 2020, and that if an agreement is not reached by that date, that Article 10 of the 2015 Declaration of Principles will be invoked.
The first of the experts’ meetings, held in mid-November in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was followed by claims in Ethiopian media that Egypt and Sudan have accepted Ethiopia’s proposal to start filling the dam in June 2020, when there will be high rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands.
Subsequent talks in Cairo in early December over the filling and operation of the dam appeared not to have reached substantial agreement.
A third meeting took place in Khartoum on December 21-22, with a fourth meeting to be hosted by Ethiopia on January 9-10.
Egypt has insisted that Ethiopia should fill the dam reservoir over a period of seven years and release 40 billion cubic meters of water every year. However, Ethiopia wants to fill the dam in 3 years and earlier this year rejected Egypt’s proposal, claiming that it does not “respect current and future rights and development plans of Ethiopia over the Nile and complicates the filling of the dam”.
Following media reports of a softening of Egypt’s position on timing, a spokesperson for Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed al-Sebaie said 24 December that his country has not retracted its proposal on the rules for filling and operating the dam, saying that “Egypt appreciates the right of the countries to achieve sustainable development, and the proposals of the three countries (Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia) regarding the rules for filling GERD are laid out on a schedule, as we are trying to bring the points of view together to reach a compromise that satisfies all parties”.