Nile dam mediator South Africa urges talks to continue

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse
Nile dam mediator South Africa urges talks to continue

This handout picture taken on July 20, 2020, and released by Adwa Pictures on July 27, 2020, shows an aerial view Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River in Guba, northwest Ethiopia. - Ethiopia said on July 21 it had hit its first-year target for filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a concrete colossus 145 metres (475 feet) high that has stoked tensions with downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan. (Photo by - / Adwa Pictures / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / ADWA PICTURES " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS / “The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Yirga MENGISTU has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [ - ] instead of [Yirga Mengitsu]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require.”

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011

South Africa, current mediator in a long-running feud over Ethiopia’s dam on the Blue Nile, on Thursday, August 6, urged talks to continue despite threats of suspension and walkout.

Egypt on Tuesday, August 4, called for a halt in the talks while Sudan threatened to withdraw, rattling efforts to calm the dispute.

In a statement, South Africa, which as current chair of the African Union (AU) has been acting as mediator, said negotiations were at a “critical phase” and it “encourages the parties to remain engaged.”

“We would like to urge them to continue to be guided by the spirit of Pan-African solidarity and fraternity, which has characterised the AU-led negotiations process on the GERD,” International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor said.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011.

Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat to vital water supplies, while Ethiopia considers it crucial for its electrification and development.

“It is important that the parties should display magnanimity and understanding of each other’s interests so as to move the process forward,” Pandor said.

Tuesday’s warnings were issued after a meeting of tripartite technical and legal committees which are seeking an agreement on how the dam should be filled and operated.

Sudan’s water and irrigation minister, Yasser Abbas accused Ethiopia of shifting its position.

Ethiopia, he said, now insisted that the deal on the dam be linked to the wider question of sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.

“This new Ethiopian position threatens the negotiations under the aegis of the African Union, and Sudan will not participate in negotiations which include the subject of sharing Blue Nile waters,” he warned.

Egypt and Sudan invoke a “historic right” over the river guaranteed by treaties concluded in 1929 and 1959.

But Ethiopia uses a treaty signed in 2010 by 6 riverside countries and boycotted by Egypt and Sudan authorizing irrigation projects and dams on the river.

Egypt’s water ministry, for its part, said Ethiopia’s draft proposal lacked substance and contravened guidelines set at an AU summit on July 21.

“Egypt and Sudan demanded meetings be suspended for internal consultations,” it said. –