Sudan has rejected a proposal to sign a partial agreement with Ethiopia on the first filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Addis Ababa is committed to starting in July.
It emphasised the importance of a comprehensive agreement between the three sides currently at loggerheads over the project, namely Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt, said Sudan’s Ministry of Irrigation on Tuesday.
Sudan’s Prime Minister, Abdullah Hamdok, rejected a proposal submitted to him in a letter by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, to sign a partial agreement on the dam’s first.
Hamdok added that the way to reach a comprehensive agreement includes the immediate resumption of negotiations between the three countries that took place In Washington and which has made progress in the last four months.
“Any signing of a partial agreement for the first filling could not be approved due to technical and legal aspects that should be included in the agreement,” Hamdok said.
Sudan believes that current circumstances do not allow for talks through normal diplomatic channels, he said, which have been temporarily halted due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Hamdok mentioned, however, that teleconferences are an alternative, as they are a means to complete negotiations and agree on outstanding issues.
Lead Sudanese negotiator Saleh Hamad said that most of the issues on the negotiating table are inextricably linked, including all phases relating to filling and long-term operations.
Hamad pointed out that Khartoum is moving towards resuming negotiations, which were led by the US Treasury in Washington. They succeeded in resolving about 90% of the points of contention, noting that Hamdok had in March spoken by phone with US Treasury Secretary and the negotiation processes’ sponsor, Steven Mnuchin. Hamdok reassured Mnuchin of his continuing support for the negotiations endeavours.
According to Hamad, Hamdock recently contacted the presidents of Ethiopia and Egypt to call for the quick resumption of negotiations. These would aim to reach a comprehensive agreement on the dam’s filling and operation, before the next flood.
In early May, Egypt submitted a complaint to the UN Security Council about Ethiopia’s proposal to fill the GERD. The letter warned of the consequences of Ethiopia’s proposal without first consulting Egypt and Sudan. It also detailed the stages of GERD talks and the moves Egypt adopted in accordance with international law.
It was anticipated that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan would sign an agreement prepared by the US Treasury regarding the filling and operation of the dam in Washington in March. Ethiopia however, was absent from the meeting, citing internal circumstances that prevented it from signing an international agreement that does not guarantee its approval by Parliament.
Cairo signed their initials to the proposed agreement, while Sudan reserved its signature, and Ethiopia was absent from attending the meeting,