Ethiopia agrees to delay filling of controversial Grand Renaissance Dam
ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopian will delay filling the controversial Grand Renaissance Dam along the Blue Nile, stakeholders agreed on Friday, in a move that effectively ended a standoff that had almost caused divisions among Arab League of Nations member states.
In a virtual meeting chaired by African Union chairman Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the President of South Africa, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia reached the temporary agreement, hence ending tensions that had engulfed the three nations.
Previously, the Federal Republic of Ethiopia had planned to start filling the dam next month, a move that was protested by Cairo and Khartoum. Last month, Egypt raised the matter at the United Nations Security Council.
In a statement on Friday, the office of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said that "a legally binding final agreement for all parties stressing the prevention of any unilateral moves, including the filling of the dam, will be sent in a letter to the UN Security Council to consider it in its session discussing the Renaissance Dam issue next Monday."
Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan's Prime Minister, said that "it has been agreed upon that the dam filling will be delayed until an agreement is reached". Ramaphosa had insisted that the crisis was an "African problem which needed an African solution".
Hamdok's office said technical committees for all three countries will try to hammer out a conclusive deal within two weeks as suggested by Ethiopia.
"Sudan is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the dam and also one of the biggest losers if risks are not mitigated, thus it urges Egypt and Ethiopia to the impending necessity... of finding a solution," he added.
Initially, Washington had been pushing for a solution for the impasse, a move which saw the three nations meet in White House at least three times in the last ten months. President Donald Trump had asked them to reach a "win-win solution".
Also in the virtual meeting was President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. A fortnight ago, Kenya won the lucrative United Nations Security Council non-permanent seat, after cruising past Djibouti and would sit in the council for the 2021-22 period.
Political tensions have been running high between upstream Ethiopia and downstream Egypt and Sudan after recent ministerial talks failed to produce a deal on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam [GERD], AFP reported.
In recent months, Addis Ababa has been threatening to fill the dam, further causing confusion. Egypt, which views the hydroelectric barrage as an existential threat, appealed last week to the UN Security Council to intervene in the dispute.
Addis Ababa followed suit complaining about Cairo, while Khartoum expressed its concern to the UN about Ethiopia unilaterally filling without a comprehensive deal being inked first.
Cairo fears the dam would severely cut its Nile water supply, which provides nearly 97 percent of the country's freshwater needs. Ethiopia says the dam is indispensable for its electrification and development needs.
In a State, African Union said that the three countries had agreed to postpone the filling of the reservoir "until after the signing of an agreement" and negotiations to begin at the level of the technical committees to reach an agreement within two weeks, which is proposed by Ethiopia.
On Saturday, Addis Ababa said that it will, however, fill the section of the dam which had been completed as the remaining part gets underway for completion. It said the filling will start in two weeks.
"Ethiopia is scheduled to begin filling the GERD within the next two weeks, during which the remaining construction work will continue. It is in this period that the three countries have agreed to reach a final agreement on a few pending matters."