What Ethiopia, Sudan have in common in GERD negotiation

If the statement from Sudanese Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources is true, Ethiopia and Sudan are on the same page on important principle

Ethiopia _ Sudan
Professor Yasser Abbas, Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, during press statement. Source : SUNA

June 18, 2020

Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Professor Yasser Abbas, had a press conference on Wednesday in Khartoum.  If what he said is true, based on the Sudan News Agency Report, Sudan and Ethiopia are close to reaching an agreement.

SUNA cited him as saying that  Sudan’s position on “The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam negotiations is based on a basic principle in international law, which is the right of the riparian states to obtain fair and reasonable use of water without causing harm to others,”  an ideal for which Ethiopia is committed.

The minister also indicated that his country supports Ethiopia’s right to development including electric power from the dam. 

Sudan’s stance, as expressed by Professor Yasser Abbas, aligns with Ethiopia’s commitment to benefit from its water resources equitably and in accordance with international law.

The reference to international law is understood, as far as Ethiopians are concerned, to be within the context of decolonized international law.

Professor Yasser’s press conference came after the completion of the seventh meeting of tripartite negotiation which was held virtually.

Without discounting the complexity of divergence points, he described the atmosphere of the 7th meeting as one that was, “positive” and “fraternal.” He also said that it was marked by optimism, as reported by SUNA. 

The Sudanese Irrigation Minister even quantified the level of agreement between the three countries on technical issues related to the filling and operation of the dam. He puts it between 90 to 95 percent.

The disagreement is on legal matters related to the dispute resolution mechanism between the three countries and the extent of obligation after the agreement is signed. The point is not elaborated further.

The other key points of disagreement are whether the agreement is on GERD or the entire water sharing between the three countries.

Ethiopians have rallied against the Ethiopian government that should not enter into an agreement regarding the entire Nile river as it is seen as something that needs the involvement of all Nile riparian countries. And most Ethiopians have the understanding that the Ethiopian government has a firm position on the issue.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy has released a statement following the seventh tripartite meeting. According to the statement, the negotiation was on the “Guidelines and Rules for the first filing and annual operation of the GERD.”

The statement also confirmed that most of the technical issues are resolved during the seventh meeting. However, it noted that there are outstanding legal issues. Sudanese delegation wanted to consult with their Prime Minister on it. Egyptian position is unspecified.

Ethiopia on the other hand said that “the negotiation demands the Governments of Egypt and Sudan to take a visionary road leading to sustainable cooperation that respects the sovereignty and mutual benefit of the countries.”

Earlier in the week, Ethiopia expressed its concern about Egyptian dual approaches to the negotiation and pointed out that it will not return to the tripartite negotiation if Egypt’s rigidity causes collapse to the tripartite talks.  

Project completion has reached 74 percent, and Ethiopia is clearing land for the water catchment area to start the first phase of filling next mo

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