The latest talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over a massive Nile dam being built by Addis Ababa have failed to make any progress, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The statement blamed Ethiopia for the failure of the negotiations in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It said Ethiopia has again rejected a Sudanese-Egyptian proposal for a quartet of the United States, the United Nations, the EU and the African Union to mediate in the deadlocked talks.
Ethiopia has also rejected an Egyptian proposal for the Congolese President to sponsor the talks with the participation of observers from the EU and the United States as the case has been for the past year.
There was no comment from Ethiopia immediately available.
“The talks have failed to arrive at a formula for relaunching substantive negotiations,” said the statement.
“This stance lays bare once again the absence of a political will on the part of Ethiopia to negotiate in good faith … It is an obstructive stance that will further complicate the crisis over the Renaissance dam and fuel tension in the region.”
Egypt and Sudan believe the international quartet will have the kind of influence the African Union, which has sponsored the talks over the past year without making any progress.
The two downstream nations accuse Ethiopia of buying time until the dam, already 80 per cent complete, is fully operational.
Egypt is alarmed that the hydroelectric dam will significantly cut into its vital share of the river’s water, wiping out tens of thousands of jobs and disrupting the delicate food balance for its 100 million people.
Sudan says Ethiopia must share data on the filling and operation of the dam to avoid deadly flooding in its eastern region and the disruption of its own power-generating Nile dams.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said late on Sunday that the talks in Kinshasa offered the “last chance” to agree on a formula after decade-long negotiations.
His comment, made hours before the talks began, echoed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s recent statement that his country wants to reach an agreement through diplomacy but will not negotiate indefinitely.
Mr El Sisi last week made a thinly veiled threat that his country could use force to secure its water share, saying no one should believe it is beyond the reach of his country’s “capabilities”.
“I say it again, Egypt’s water cannot be touched. Touching it is a red line and our reaction if it’s touched will impact on the entire region,” he said.
Already allies, Sudan and Egypt have in recent months forged close military ties, conducting war games and signing a co-operation agreement.
Both seek a legally binding agreement on the filling of the dam’s reservoir as well as the handling of persistent drought and future disputes.
Ethiopia, however, insists guidelines should be sufficient. It says it will go ahead in July with a second and much larger filing – 13.5 billion cubic metres, or nearly three times the size of the first filling – regardless of whether an agreement is reached.
Ethiopia went ahead with the first filling last July without giving notice to either Cairo or Khartoum.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, is built on the Blue Nile less than 20 kilometres from the Sudanese border.
When completed, it is expected to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity. Addis Ababa says the dam is key to the country’s development and will pluck millions out of poverty.
The Blue Nile, whose source is on Ethiopia’s highlands, thunders down into eastern Sudan and meets with the White Nile in Khartoum before the two travel together through northern Sudan and Egypt all the way to the Mediterranean.
The Blue Nile accounts for more than 80 per cent of the Nile’s water.
Updated: April 6, 2021 05:32 PM