The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are scheduled to resume on Sunday under the aegis of the African Union (AU), along with the participation of each country’s foreign and irrigation ministers.
Sunday’s gathering is expected to look into Sudan’s absence from last week’s talks and review the coming steps of the long-running standoff, which has been of concern to Cairo and Khartoum since 2011.
Sudan skipped the meeting, according to an official statement released last week, in objection to not receiving a response to its demands of holding bilateral meetings between the AU experts participating in the negotiations and each of the three countries’ representatives separately to discuss and identify points of differences while continuing to hold only trilateral meetings between the three countries’ negotiating teams.
The AU-mediated talks have been observed by representatives from the EU, the US, the AU, as well as legal and technical experts.
Only 24 hours before Sunday’s six-member meeting, Sudan called for the AU to play a leading and more effective role in the negotiations, which the continental body has been mediating.
The call came during a meeting held on Saturday between the Sudanese negotiating team and the AU experts’ team participating in the talks that are being held.
During the bilateral meeting, the Sudanese side called for granting experts a bigger role and establishing a clear frame of reference for their role, the Sudanese official news agency SUNA reported.
Sudan affirmed the need for the AU to “play a leading” and “effective” role more than it had been doing during the previous rounds of negotiations, SUNA added.
The team reiterated the necessity of reaching a comprehensive and binding agreement on the rule of filling and operating the dam, that includes clear mechanisms for settling potential disputes.
The Sudanese government warned that it would withdraw from Sunday’s meeting if its demand of granting a bigger role for experts will not be met, the Saudi-owned new website Asharq reported, citing Sudanese diplomatic sources.
The GERD, built 15 kilometres from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of contention between the three countries since its construction began in 2011.
Cairo fears the project will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the River Nile, while Sudan has concerns over how the reservoir will be managed.
Ethiopia says the massive project – which it hopes will make it Africa’s largest power exporter – is key to its development efforts.