Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia talks over Nile dam fail

The two-day talks in Kinshasa between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia over the Renaissance dam ended without a breakthrough.

Three countries are deadlocked in negotiations over Ethiopia's massive dam on the Nile river [File: Eduardo Soteras/AFP]

The latest round of talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) have ended with no progress made.

Delegations from the three countries met in an attempt to break a deadlock in negotiations over Ethiopia’s massive dam on the Nile river, a project Addis Ababa says is key to its economic development and power generation.

The negotiations, held in Kinshasa, DR Congo, concluded Tuesday without a deal being reached, according to a communique released after they finished.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said the talks failed after Ethiopia rejected a Sudanese proposal to include international mediators in talks.

Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said Ethiopia rejected the United States, European Union, the United Nations and the African Union playing a role in overseeing the negotiations.

“This position reveals once again Ethiopia’s lack of political will to negotiate in good faith,” Egypt’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Sudan’s foreign minister said Ethiopia’s unilateral moves over the dam were a clear violation of international law.

“Without a new approach to negotiations, there becomes space for Ethiopia to impose a fait accompli and put all the peoples of the region in grave danger,” Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi told reporters.

Ethiopian officials made no immediate comment.

The GERD, whose planned capacity of 6,500 megawatts will make it the biggest dam in Africa, has been a source of tension since its first stone was laid in April 2011.

Ethiopia says the dam project is key to its economic development and power generation for its population of 110 million people.

But Egypt fears the dam will imperil its supplies of Nile water, while Sudan is concerned about the dam’s safety and water flows through its own dams and water stations.

Last week, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said there would be “inconceivable instability in the region” if Egypt’s water supplies were affected by the dam.

Major sticking point

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said the objective of the talks was to come up with a road map for negotiations to continue before Ethiopia fills the dam for a second time.

“Sudan and Egypt on one side want the mediation to expand to include the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union – who are right now holding the role of observers – rather than the mediators.”

However, she continued, the major sticking point is that Ethiopia wants the GERD talks to be led solely by the African Union.

“Ethiopia also said that Egypt and Sudan came up with points that were not part of the agenda, such as postponing the filling of the GERD until a deal is reached,” she added.

Ethiopia announced the second filling will take place in July and is set to store 13.5 billion cubic metres of water.

“That’s three times more than the amount of water that was stored in the GERD in the first filling last year, which had impacted water stations and some farms along the Nile and affected the water supplies of five million people in the country,” Morgan said.

Allam Ahmed, founding president of the World Association of Sustainable Development, told Al Jazeera that a country or bloc that has not been involved in past negotiations and is seen as independent – such as possibly the US, Canada, or China – will likely have to play a mediating role to move the talks forward.

“The conflict will continue to escalate and I think there will have to be an intervention at a higher level,” he said.

He said that none of the parties is seriously considering destroying the dam, but that independent technical experts need to scrutinise the data on the dam held by Ethiopia in order to address the concerns.

“The outstanding issues could be resolved quickly if we can have a transparent technical evaluation of the dam – that is the key point.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies