Ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia met in Khartoum on Friday for two days of talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), focusing on technical issues relating to the dam’s construction.
On Friday, discussions during unofficial meetings were led by the ministers of irrigation and foreign affairs from each country, with a view to forming a new vision of the outstanding issues.
The need for agreement on technical issues was discussed, as was the implementation of outstanding agreements already signed between the three nations.
The Egyptian delegation stressed the need to create a roadmap that addresses its concerns regarding the speed of the construction work on the GERD and the slow pace of the technical talks. It asked Ethiopia to create a mechanism to ensure the full implementation of existing agreements.
Egypt’s minister of irrigation water resources, Hossam El-Din Moghazy, said that the Egyptian delegation expressed concerns about the apparent construction of the dam by Ethiopia before technical studies have been completed.
The Egyptian delegation also expressed a desire to reach a consensus on how technical studies are to be completed, in light of the Declaration of Principles signed by the three presidents in Khartoum in March 2015.
Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, said that eight months after the agreement of principles was signed, and after many obstacles in the negotiations, it was necessary to hold a six-party meeting to address the concerns of the Egyptian side, both on technical and political issues.
He said that the meeting came at a crucial time, stressing that negotiations to resolve differences was a top priority for Egypt, as it touches the lives of every Egyptian directly. He pointed out that Egypt does not seek to infringe on the interests of others and it wouldn’t accept others doing so.
The Ethiopian delegation responded to the Egyptian concerns, saying Ethiopia would not close the GERD to prevent the flow of water from the Blue Nile to countries downstream.
The Ethiopian delegation said that the nation’s laboratories are able to identify and prevent any health risks posed to the water supplies of Egypt and Sudan. It also outlined a giant agricultural project planned for the Sudanese-Ethiopian border, making use of the electricity produced from the GERD.
It stressed that the GERD would share responsibility for resolving the electricity shortages in the three countries, providing cheap power to the growing populations of the Nile Basin while supporting industrial growth.
The delegates discussed the question of implementing technical studies that should be supervised by French and Dutch consultants, according to an agreement reached by a tripartite committee in May 2013.
The three countries previously formed a committee to choose a consultancy firm to assess the impact of the GERD on Sudan and Egypt. Four firms from France, Australia and the Netherlands were short-listed and invited to submit their proposals.
The multi-billion dollar dam is being constructed on the Blue Nile, about 20km from the Sudanese border, with a capacity of 74bn cubic metres. It is expected to generate 6,000 MW of power.
Egypt has long expressed its concerns on the construction of the GERD, fearing it will negatively affect its annual share of water from the Nile. Ethiopia, meanwhile, insists that this won’t happen, saying that the project is essential to its own national development and the economic welfare of its population.
There was some mild drama during a press conference for the Khartoum talks on Saturday when Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry threw aside the microphone of Al-Jazeera news channel.
Shoukry, who was giving a statement to the assembled media, removed the Al-Jazeera microphone from among a cluster of media microphones, saying “take this microphone away from me” and throwing it onto the conference table.