Sudan to skip Nile dam talks but calls for African Union involvement

This is the first time Sudan has refused to partake in the GERD talks, signaling a drastic turn in neighbourly relations

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Sudan plans to boycott further talks with Egypt and Ethiopia over Addis Ababa’s massive dam project on the Nile river and called on the African Union to play a greater role, Khartoum’s irrigation minister said on Sunday.

The years-long talks over how water should be shared and the operation of Ethiopia’s Grand Renascence Dam have failed to yield an agreement even as Addis Ababa completed the first filling of the reservoir behind the structure – considered a red line by Egypt without a lasting deal.

This is the first time Sudan has said it will not attend talks with the two other Blue Nile river countries.

Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said, “The African Union should do more to facilitate negotiations and bridge the gap between the three parties” given the current approach has not solved the dispute.

The foreign and irrigation ministers of the three Nile Valley countries met virtually on Thursday, two weeks after the last talks failed to agree on a new framework for negotiations.

There was no immediate comment from South Africa, the current leader of the African Union, nor Egypt or Ethiopia regarding Sudan's action, and it remains unclear when the countries would resume negotiations.

Egypt for years has expressed concerns that the dam just south of the Sudanese border will significantly threaten the water supply in downstream nations. Egypt relies on the Nile for over 90 per cent of its freshwater.

Sudan is concerned that without real-time information sharing on the operation of the GERD, heavy rain or un-announced water discharges by Ethiopia could lead to flooding downstream or endanger Sudan and Egypt’s own Nile dams.

Both nations also worry that if a deal is not reached to build a framework for operation, it could have implications if Ethiopia builds further dam or irrigation projects upstream as they have suggested.