The Arab League has lent its support to Egypt and Sudan in the ongoing negotiations with Ethiopia over the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), according to Hossam Zaki, the Arab League Deputy Secretary-General.
In an interview with state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA), Zaki said, “The Egyptian handling of the GERD issue was very wise, but unfortunately, the Ethiopian side’s intransigence and procrastination brought us to this point.”
He added that he wished for the issue to be positively concluded through political negotiation.
In March, the Arab League adopted a resolution supporting Egypt and Sudan in their negotiations with Ethiopia over GERD. Khartoum withdrew from the resolution upon its adoption by the Arab league, requesting that it be removed and expressed rejection of the decision.
The resolution only implied solidarity for Egypt’s water rights, and affirmed the rules of international law. It also called for the signing of the prepared agreement [during the Washington meetings] that ended with no agreement after Ethiopia’s withdrawal from the Washington course.
On Tuesday, negotiators from Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia met to tackle the predominantly legal issues. Ethiopia chaired the meeting, with representatives from South Africa, the US and the European Union (EU) participating in the talks as supervisors.
“If the views were not close, the matter will be referred to the prime ministers,” said Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Yassir Abbas.
Mohamed Nasr El-Din Allam, Egypt’s former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, said that he expects the negotiations will see some progress related to most of the technical issues. He noted, however, that there will be differences regarding the inclusion of these technical issues in a document.
Posting on his Facebook account on Tuesday, Allam stated that he believed “the parties hold different points of view on the article solving [potential] disputes.”
“It is possible and hoped to reach an agreement, and international observers may need to intervene and extend the negotiations for another day, and there is also possibility of announcing the failure of the negotiations,” he said.
He pointed out that Egypt and Sudan hope to reach an agreement that is not subject to misinterpretation, as is Ethiopia’s current stance with the Declaration of Principles. Cairo and Khartoum have rejected Ethiopia’s stance on the subject.
Late on Monday, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia’s respective Ministers of Water Resources and Irrigation met to undertake further discussions on GERD, after the failure of previous meetings.
The discussions apparently did not go well, despite Ethiopian and Sudanese statements on achieving progress in the talks. At the time of writing, Egypt remained on the subject.
Following the Monday meeting, Sudan’s Abbas said the most significant talks have been on the technical side of the GERD, with agreement reached on about 95% of the disputed points.
“The technical aspects are related to the filling operations during the regular years and during the dry years. Most of the technical issues were agreed upon except the minor details,” Sudan News Agency (SUNA) quoted Abbas as saying.
He added that the number of filling years, one of the main sticking points for Egypt, was not specified during the negotiations. However, Abbas expressed optimism regarding the atmosphere of the negotiations.
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy said the tripartite negotiations on the guidelines and rules for the first filling and annual operation of the GERD will take place under Egypt’s chairmanship.
“Ethiopia underlined the need to follow an approach that ensures the joint responsibility of the three countries in the incidence of drought while preserving the optimal operation of the GERD,” according to the Ethiopian ministry.