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Ethiopia’s Nile Dam: Sudan Says Talks Fail to Produce Deal

Ethiopia’s Nile Dam: Sudan Says Talks Fail to Produce Deal
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By Staff, Agencies

The latest round of talks between three key Nile basin countries have failed to resolve a contentious dispute over construction of a giant $4.6 billion hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia, Sudan’s irrigation minister said Wednesday.

The years long dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam [GERD] on the Blue Nile pits Ethiopia’s desire to become a major power exporter and pull millions out of poverty against Egypt’s concern that the dam will curtail its critical share of the river if filled too quickly.

Sudan has long been caught between the competing interests of Egypt and Ethiopia. It stands to benefit from Ethiopia's dam, including having access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding, but it has raised fears over the operation and safety of the Ethiopian project and says it could endanger Sudan's own dams.

The three countries resumed negotiations on June 9 via video conference after months of deadlock. Officials from the US, EU and South Africa, the current chairman of the African Union, attended the talks as observers.

Sudan's Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas told reporters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum after talks ended Wednesday that the three counties' irrigation leaders have agreed on "90% or 95%" of the technical issues but the dispute over the "legal points" in the deal remains unsolved.

Abbas said they decided to turn to their political leadership to end the standoff. No date was set for a return to talks, he said.

"A deal should be signed before the start of the filling, [of the dam]" he said. "There is no solution but negotiations."

Relatively, Ethiopia’s water and irrigation ministry said that although technical issues were resolved a key legal issue had yet to be worked out.

"Beyond ensuring the optimal operation of the GERD, the negotiation requires prudence to safeguard the permanent right of Ethiopia over the Blue Nile," the statement said.

Sudan wants to ensure that water releases from the Ethiopian dam are coordinated with water levels at its Roseries dam, around 100 kilometers from the GERD, the Sudanese minister said.

He said Sudan and Egypt rejected Ethiopia’s attempts to include articles on water sharing and old Nile treaties in the dam deal. "This is a deal only on the operating and the filling of the dam," he said.

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