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Ethiopia would think twice about filling Nile Dam without prior agreement

Christian Fernsby |
Sudanese Foreign Minister Asmaa Abdalla has said that Sudan believes Ethiopia “would think twice” about filling the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) before an agreement is reached if it is met by “a strong stance” from Sudan and Egypt.

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In an interview with Sudan's State TV on Saturday, Abdallah explained that Sudan sent a letter to the UN Security Council to stipulate that it is not merely a mediator between Egypt and Ethiopia, but rather an essential partner in the dam issue and its negotiations.

She asserted that since the dam is nearly 20 km away from the Sudanese border, and that it holds both pros and cons for the country, Sudan thinks it is quite important to reach a tripartite agreement on the next steps regarding the dam.

Abdullah said Ethiopia has the right to build dams within its territory and to benefit from its water resources; however, it should adhere to international conventions and the declaration of principles signed by Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.

She stressed that negotiations are the only way to resolve the crisis, and that the three countries should sit together and negotiate.

The Sudanese foreign minister asserted that it would not be harmful if observers like the United States and the World Bank were present in the negotiations until the end.

During the same interview, Sudanese Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Yasser Abbas said that in order to preserve its national interest, Sudan insists that an agreement should be signed before Ethiopia starts filling the GERD.

They both stressed on the necessity of reaching a tripartite agreement between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, as well as a commitment to international agreements, prior to the filling of the dam.

Abbas asserted that Sudan is a key party in the tripartite negotiations as it is the most affected by the GERD due to its proximity to the Roseires dam in southern Sudan.

He explained that the GERD will have an effect on the operation of the Roseires dam and the reservoirs of both the Roseires and Sanar dams, and this is why Sudan is keen on reaching an agreement before the filling of the GERD.

The Sudanese irrigation minister stated that Ethiopia has the right to development but without causing any harm to the other parties, stressing that with international cooperation, all parties can benefit from the GERD.

Abbas denied that Sudan is biased towards either Egypt or Ethiopia, stressing that his country is only keen on its own national interests, which can sometimes be in line with one party or the other.

Abbas noted that the three countries have agreed on nearly 90 percent of the main points, and it is therefore necessary that they reach an agreement on the filling of the dam as well.

Deputy Chairman of the National Umma Party (NUP) Ibrahim El-Amin said during the interview that Sudan is capable of leading an initiative to reach a consensus between the three countries based on principles of regional cooperation and the exchange of benefits, SUNA reported.

El-Amin asserted that the construction of the GERD is inevitable and no longer an issue, what matters now is working towards avoiding harm and maximising the common benefits for the three countries.

Last week, Sudan sent a letter urging the United Nations Security Council to encourage all parties to refrain from any unilateral measures in the GERD issue that could affect regional and international peace and security.

Sudan asked the Security Council to support its efforts to resume talks in good faith to reach a comprehensive agreement between all parties.

Khartoum’s letter comes a few weeks after Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed to resume technical discussions on the mega-dam.

The tripartite negotiations reached a deadlock in February after Ethiopia skipped a final round of talks in Washington, leading to a diplomatic war of words between Cairo and Addis Ababa.

On 1 May, Egypt sent a memo to the Security Council blaming Ethiopia for trying to establish a deal without taking the interests of downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, into consideration.

Egypt rejected, along with Sudan, an Ethiopian proposal put forth last month amid the ongoing discord, wherein Addis Ababa proposed a “partial agreement” that would only cover the first stage of the filling.

Addis Ababa told the Security Council in May in a letter sent in response to the Egyptian memo that it “does not have a legal obligation to seek the approval of Egypt to fill the dam.”

Egypt has said it is ready for a revival of talks, but stressed the importance of "serious and constructive” talks between the three countries’ irrigation ministers to contribute to a fair, balanced and comprehensive agreement that would preserve Egypt’s water rights and the interests of both Sudan and Ethiopia.

Some 85 percent of the Nile water that reaches Egypt flows from the Ethiopian highlands, mainly from the Blue Nile.

Egypt receives 55.5 billion cubic metres of water from the Nile annually, but requires over 80 billion cubic metres to cover its needs.

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