Tripartite Talks on Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam Suspended

ADDIS ABABA – Despite making technical progress, the tripartite talks between the three Nile countries on Ethiopia’s $4.6 billion hydroelectric dam has been suspended at the request of Sudanese mediators, Addis Ababa said.

The negotiation between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on the Guidelines and Rules for the first filling and annual operation of the GERD held for the seventh day on Wednesday. The technical and legal teams of the countries had a consultation in parallel sessions ahead of the ministerial meeting.

The teams reported the outcome of their work to Wednesday’s trilateral ministerial meeting, which was attended by officials from the U.S. EU and South Africa, the current chairman of the African Union, as observers.

“The most prominent technical issues are resolved through the negotiation,” said Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy in a statement.

“However, the full completion of the negotiation will require resolution of legal issues,” the statement reads.

It said the meeting will be suspended for today after the delegation of Sudan said they have “to report the progress and seek guidance from their Prime Minister”.

Wednesday’s meeting ended with an agreement to continue the negotiation after Sudan has its consultation, according to the Ministry.

Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas told reporters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum after talks ended Wednesday that the three counties’ irrigation leaders have agreed on “90% or 95%” of the technical issues but the dispute over the “legal points” in the deal remains dissolved.

Abbas said they decided to turn to their political leadership to end the standoff. No date was set for a return to talks, he said.

Last week, the three countries agreed to continue to meet daily except Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays until an agreement is reached.

This may not be the case due to continuous Egypt’s continuing effort to bring in “external diplomatic pressure” while the trilateral talks are ongoing – an act strongly opposed by Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is building the dam near its border with Sudan on the Blue Nile. The dam is the centerpiece in Ethiopia’s bid to energy secure and becomes Africa’s biggest power exporter.

The country plans to start to fill the dam’s reservoir next Month.

On Wednesday’s statement, its ministry of water reiterates its position to fill and operate the GERD based on the principles enshrined under the Declaration of Principles.

“Ethiopia is of the conviction that the three countries can conclude the negotiation on the guidelines and rules with an outcome that maximizes the benefit of the countries,” its water ministry’s statement said.