Monday, June 22, 2020

Tripartite Meeting on Ethiopian Dam Refers Legal Dispute to Political Leaders
GERD under construction (Ethiopian FM photo)

June 17, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The irrigation ministers of Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia referred their legal dispute over the filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam to the prime ministers of the three countries after failing to agree on it.

The legal dispute is about the binding legal status of the agreement once signed, the scope of this agreement whether it is limited to the filling and operation the dam, or it is also a water-sharing agreement and finally what is the dispute settlement mechanism.

Speaking to reporters in a press conference on Wednesday Yasir Abbas Sudanese Minister of Irrigation stressed that between 90% to 95% of the technical issues related to the GERD filling and operation have been agreed.

However, he said divergences arose on several legal matters that require a political decision not a technical solution by the leaders of the three countries.

"Sudan has proposed returning to the political leadership to consult on the outstanding points on the legal matters before to resume negotiations," Abbas said.

He further expressed hope that the leadership in the three countries can meet shortly to settle the three pending issues.

The videoconference meetings were attended by the U.S. EU and African Union as observers but they did not interfere in the discussions, according to the Sudanese officials.

The minister who was flanked by the members of the Sudanese negotiating team said that his country refuses to start the GERD filling before the conclusion of a legally binding agreement.

He stressed they refuse the filling because this would damage the reservoir of the Roseires Dam, which is at 15 km from the Sudanese-Ethiopian border.

The legal negotiator of the Sudanese delegation disclosed that Ethiopia during this round of talks reversed its position after agreeing in January on the binding character of the negotiated deal.

“Ethiopia submitted a proposal providing that the deal be a guidelines and rules agreement on the first filling of the dam that could be unilaterally modified in some aspects and even repealed in certain cases,” said Hisham Abdallah.

Abdallah also stressed Sudan refusal to involve the water sharing issue in the talks saying this deal should be dedicated only to the filing and operation of the GERD.

He further said that Ethiopia proposed to negotiate a water-sharing agreement within ten years.

“We believe that this is not the right place to raise it,” he further said.

He also said that his country believes it is crucial to include a dispute settlement mechanism in the agreement.

The Sudanese official stressed that this mechanism should intervene after the failure of the technical, ministerial committees and the heads of government to reach a compromise.

Ethiopian position

Egypt issued a statement that reflected - to a large extent - the same Sudanese position and added that Ethiopia has rejected the inclusion in the agreement of “effective measures to cope with drought”.

The Ethiopian foreign ministry for its part stated that the parties continued videoconference discussions on the “Guidelines and Rules” for the first filling and annual operation of the GERD.

“Beyond ensuring the optimal operation of the GERD, the negotiation requires prudence to safeguard the permanent right of Ethiopia over the Blue Nile,” said a statement issued in Addis Ababa after the meeting.

The statement further urged Egypt and Sudan to “respects the sovereignty and mutual benefit of the countries” during the talks, before to reiterates the right of the upstream country right to fill and operate the GERD based on the principles enshrined under the Declaration of Principles of 2015.

“However, 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,” stressed the statement.


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