Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia end Nile dam talks without agreement

Sudan says Ethiopia was open to expanding African Union role but Egypt objected

epa08548882 A satellite image made available by MAXAR Technologies shows a view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the Blue Nile River, in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, 26 June 2020 (issued 16 July 2020). The GERD dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia has been under construction since 2011. The project affects Sudan and Egypt as the Blue Nile river flows north from the dam and is of vital importance to the Nile River. Recent satellite imagery revealed a large reservoir that started to fill behind the dam.  EPA/MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES HANDOUT -- MANDATORY CREDIT: SATELLITE IMAGE 2020 MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES -- the watermark may not be removed/cropped -- HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan failed to agree on a new negotiating approach to resolve their years-long dispute over a controversial dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile, they said on Wednesday.

In late October, the three resumed online talks over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The talks resumed after US President Donald Trump said downstream Egypt could end up “blowing up” the project, which Cairo has called an existential threat. The remarks angered Ethiopia.

Foreign and irrigation ministers of the three nations met last week and named experts from their countries to discuss and agree on an approach so the talks could be fruitful.

But differences remained and Wednesday’s meeting failed to bridge the gaps, said Mohammed El Sebaei, Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry spokesman.

Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas also said the talks did not achieve concrete progress, and that Egypt opposed a Sudanese proposal supported by Ethiopia to maximise the role of African Union experts. He said that this round "failed to make any tangible progress".

Ethiopia said the countries “were unable to reach a complete agreement” on items such as the “basis for the upcoming negotiation and the time frame".

Sudan said it "cannot keep negotiating without an end and must guarantee the safety of its water installations".

According to the statement published on Egypt's Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation: “In light of the the latest talks ending without reaching a consensus, all participating parties agreed to separately submit a report to South Africa as the current chair of the African Union, that details recommendations on ways to implement the resolutions put forth in the previous two meetings held on June 26, 2020 and July 21, 2020."

Key questions remain about how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the three countries will resolve any future disputes. Ethiopia rejects binding arbitration at the final stage of the project.

Ethiopia is building the dam on the Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile in Sudan to become the Nile River, and about 85 per cent of the river’s flow originates from Ethiopia.

Officials hope the dam, now more than three quarters complete, will reach full power-generating capacity in 2023.

But Egypt and Sudan have expressed concerns that the dam will reduce the flow of the Nile waters to their countries.

Egypt relies heavily on the Nile to supply water for its agriculture and to its more than 100 million people.