ADDIS ABEBA – The virtual meeting among experts Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan scheduled for Monday could not be held due to the non-attendance of the delegation of the Sudan, the chair of the meeting said.
On Sunday, foreign and water ministers of the three nations agreed to reconvene on Jan. 10 to discuss on the modality of the dam talks and other outstanding issues this week.
But the first meeting of the experts scheduled to be held on Monday has failed to materialize after Sudanese experts’ no-show.
Delegation of Egypt, AU assigned experts, and observers attended the meeting following the invitation extended by Ethiopia – the chair of the meeting.
Ethiopia, while communicating its reservations to the chairperson of the AU Executive Council, had agreed to adopt the document drafted by the AU assigned experts as an input to the trilateral negotiation.
Sudan too approved it while Egypt categorically rejected it.
“Nevertheless, the meeting planned to take stock of agreed and outstanding issues could not be held due to the absence of the Sudanese delegation,” said Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy in a statement issued on Monday.
Addis Abeba notified this development to the chairperson of the AU Executive Council, it said.
But its officials said they are hopeful that the talks between the experts “will continue” and they will present the result of their meetings to the six ministers meeting on Sunday.
Dina Mufti, spokesperson of the foreign ministry, said nothing has changed regarding the ongoing talks as far as Ethiopia is concerned and hopes the Sunday’s ministerial meeting will go ahead as scheduled.
Sudan said it will not take part in direct talks with Egypt and Ethiopia on the multibillion-dollar Dam GERD and wants the negotiations to be held with African Union mediation.
The country’s Water Resources and Irrigation Ministry said Khartoum submitted a request for a trilateral meeting with AU experts and observers on Monday.
“Instead of a reply to this request, Sudan received an invitation for a direct tripartite meeting, so it has expressed its reservations over participating in this meeting.” it said adding that all future talks must proceed with AU mediation.
This is the second time Sudan has skipped AU-mediated meetings. In November, Sudan decided not to take part in a tripartite ministerial meeting that was scheduled to discuss guidelines for further negotiations, saying that the way previous talks were held proved to be “unproductive.”
Egypt and Sudan have been in talks with Ethiopia for a decade to find solution regarding the mega dam.
The key sticking point surrounds the filling and operation of the vast reservoir behind the 145-meter-tall hydropower project, which broke ground in 2011, and future water development of projects on the Abbay Basin.
Ethiopia claims the hydroelectric power produced at the dam is essential for it to meet the energy needs of its population. Ethiopia also insists downstream countries’ water supplies will not be adversely affected.
However, the other two countries at the resumed talks have expressed concerns that it affects their water supplies.
Ethiopia, a country which produces more than 80 percent of the basin but not benefited from the resources, consistently expressed its commitment to the ongoing negotiation but added it “will not agree to a GERD deal that will in any way restrict its right to use the Nile waters”.
By Mhret G/Kristos