KHARTOUM (AFP) – Sudan has proposed upgrading negotiations with Egypt and Ethiopia on a Nile mega-dam to prime ministerial level after the latest round of talks failed to break the deadlock.
Ethiopia said electricity generated from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) it has been building on the Blue Nile is vital for its development.
Egypt said the dam threatens the Nile’s flow, most of which originates in the Blue Nile, with damaging implications for its food supply and economy.
No timeline was set for the prime ministers to meet, but Ethiopia plans to begin filling the dam’s reservoir next month, lending heightened urgency to diplomatic efforts to resolve a dispute that stretches back nearly a decade.
Ethiopia broke ground on the dam in 2011, When completed, it is set to be Africa’s largest hydroelectric project.
Talks resumed last week, with the biggest sticking points concerning how to operate the dam during periods of drought and how to resolve disputes.
The outstanding issues “are of a legal nature especially in terms of a… mechanism for water sharing,” Sudanese Water Resources Minister Yasser Abbas told reporters late Wednesday after the latest round of virtual talks.
“Sudan has proposed to refer these issues to the prime ministers of the three countries,” Abbas added.
In a statement late Wednesday, Ethiopia’s Water Ministry also said “legal issues” needed to be resolved but added that “the most prominent technical issues” had been addressed.
The statement did not explicitly address Sudan’s proposal to get the prime ministers involved.
Egyptian Water Resources Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty sounded a negative note, saying the latest talks “did not achieve any progress worth mentioning because of Ethiopia’s stubborn position on technical and legal matters”.
“At the end of the irrigation ministers’ meetings, Ethiopia rejected the suggestion that the issue be referred to the three prime ministers as a final chance to examine the floundering of the negotiations and to find solutions for the various disputes,” he added.
The United States (US), which has been observing the talks along with the European Union (EU) and South Africa, stressed the regional importance of the Nile in a pointed message to Ethiopia.
“257 million people in east Africa are relying on Ethiopia to show strong leadership, which means striking a fair deal,” the White House’s National Security Council posted on Twitter.
“Technical issues have been resolved – time to get the GERD deal done before filling it with Nile River water!” it added.