Egypt, Sudan back resumed Nile dam talks as UN urges deal

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

This file 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.

Photo credit: AFP


Egypt and Sudan have expressed readiness to resume talks with Ethiopia on its controversial Nile dam after the UN Security Council urged the three governments to swiftly reach a binding deal.

Set to be Africa's largest hydroelectric project when completed, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has sparked an almost decade-long diplomatic stand-off between Ethiopia and downstream nations Egypt and Sudan.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council adopted a statement encouraging the three countries to resume negotiations under the auspices of the African Union to swiftly conclude a binding deal.

The Egyptian foreign ministry welcomed the Security Council statement as an "important impetus" for success in renewed talks.

Sudan backed the resumption of AU-led talks during a Wednesday visit by a delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the current AU chair.

The Sudanese foreign ministry said it wanted changes to the "ineffective method that has characterised previous rounds of negotiation".

Ethiopia has long objected to raising the issue of the dam at the UN Security Council, and on Wednesday night the foreign ministry said it was "regrettable that the Council pronounces itself over an issue of water right and development that is outside of its mandate".

Amicable resolution

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, on Thursday reiterated the government's support for AU-led talks.

"Ethiopia still holds the position and has continued to hold the position that we would like an amicable resolution to this, that it needs to be Africa-focused and Africa-managed, so this new call to resume the talks is something that has been taken positively and is being facilitated by the relevant entities in this regard," she told a news conference.

Billene said Ethiopia did not want to harm neighbouring countries including "our brothers and sisters" in Sudan and Egypt.

The DRC delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula, is also visiting Egypt and Ethiopia on a tour dedicated to resolving the long-running dispute.

It handed Sudan a document setting out the remaining points of contention between the three governments.

Egypt and Sudan have been pressing Ethiopia to sign a binding agreement on the filling and operation of its dam on the Blue Nile ever since work first started on the project in 2011.

The three governments have held multiple rounds of talks but so far there has been no sign of any breakthrough.

Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat.

Sudan hopes the project will regulate annual flooding, but fears its own dams could be harmed without agreement on the GERD's operation.

In July, Ethiopia announced it had reached its target for the second year of filling the vast reservoir behind the dam.