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News: Third round GERD talks conclude in Cairo without outcome; Addis to hold next round

An Ethiopian delegation led by Ambassador Seleshi Bekele (middle) participated in the third round of discussions regarding the regulations and protocols for the initial filling and yearly operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Photo: MoFA/Facebook)

Addis Abeba – The third round of talks regarding the rules and guidelines for the initial filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) concluded on 24 October in Cairo, Egypt. The talks lasted for two days and involved intense negotiations, as stated by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but ended without conclusive outcome.

Negotiations resumed after a three year pause following an agreement that was reached between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, in July this year “to initiate expedited negotiations to finalize the agreement between Egypt, Ethiopia and The Sudan on the filling of the GERD and the rules of its operations, and they will do all the necessary efforts to finalize it in 4 months.”

The month of October would have marked the four months period the two leaders agreed to finalize GERD filling and rules of operations agreement.

The Ethiopian delegation, led by Ambassador Seleshi Bekele, who holds the rank of minister, participated in the negotiations. Egypt’s delegation was headed by Professor Hani Sewilam, the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, while Sudan’s delegation was led by Acting Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Dawelbeit Abdelrahman.

Despite lack of conclusive agreement and missed deadline, however, Ambassador Seleshi said that “the negotiations have seen some progress and understanding and we have agreed to continue the next in December in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.”

As per the statement from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the delegations engaged in discussions to pinpoint areas of agreement, aiming to reach a comprehensive deal on the dam. It was decided that the next round of talks will take place in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, in December 2023. Ethiopia emphasized its commitment to finding a fair solution based on international law.

These recent negotiations are part of ongoing discussions spanning over a decade among the three Nile basin countries in an effort to find a collaborative resolution to the GERD issue. Talks were initiated in 2014, when Ethiopia began construction on the project.

In 2015, a declaration of principles was signed to guide the negotiations, but an ultimate agreement has proven elusive. Mediation attempts by the African Union in 2021 did not result in a breakthrough. Furthermore, Ethiopia has rejected efforts by Egypt and Sudan to escalate the dispute to the UN Security Council. Most recently, in August 2022, UAE-brokered discussions in Abu Dhabi collapsed before a draft deal could be finalized.

The current round of talks in Cairo was convened following the July 2023 meeting between Prime Minister Abiy and President el-Sisi, during which they agreed to conclude negotiations within four months. AS

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