Sudan: Nile Dam Talks Collapse as Sudan Seeks Clarification on Experts

20 November 2020

Sudan on Thursday rocked new negotiations on the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam after insisting they have to be conducted in a manner that prescribes the role of experts provided by the African Union.

The new talks were supposed to help reach an elusive agreement on the filling of the dam on the Blue Nile, which Sudan and Egypt have argued could affect their water sources. But the talks stalled as soon as they began after Khartoum demanded clarity on the role experts provided by the AU will play. It demanded a return to the African Union to adopt the role of experts and politically push the negotiations to reach an agreement for all parties.

Prof Yassir Abbas, the Sudanese Minister for Irrigation, told journalists in Khartoum his country will not proceed with the talks chaired by South Africa's Minister for International Cooperation Grace Pandor whose country is current AU Chair.

Sudan, though, said it will continue to participate in negotiations under the auspices of the African Union. On Thursday, Egypt and Ethiopia insisted on continuing negotiations but Khartoum says it wants an experts' analysis of the fact that the Sudanese dam is close to the GERD.

"The Roseires Dam is 15km away from the Renaissance Dam. Sudan's position is completely different from Egypt and Ethiopia, the Renaissance Dam is at the end of the Ethiopian western border and is more than 3,000 km away from Egypt. Ours is directly affected by the Renaissance Dam."

For its part, Ethiopia announced on Thursday an understanding between the three countries (Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan) on the importance of continuing negotiations on the outstanding issues around the Renaissance Dam.

A statement issued by the Ethiopian Ministry of Water and Irrigation said that the Renaissance Dam negotiations, which took place today via video conference, stressed the importance of continuing negotiations on the process of filling and operating the Renaissance Dam.

On November 4, Khartoum announced that the three countries had agreed to halt the round of negotiations that starts at the beginning of the month, and to return the file to the African Union.

The Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation said, in a statement at that time, "this round failed to make any tangible progress, and to agree on the role, methodology, paths and timetable for experts to play in the negotiation."

Addis Ababa insists on filling the dam to generate electricity, even if it does not reach an agreement with Cairo and Khartoum, which the latter two refuse, for fear of the repercussions.

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