Sudan boycotts faltering talks over Ethiopia's mega-dam

File photo of Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.
File photo of Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.

CAIRO — Sudan boycotted talks on Saturday between Nile Valley countries over Ethiopia's controversial mega-dam, calling on the African Union to play a greater role in pushing forward the negotiations that have stalled for years, DPA reported.

It was the first time that Sudan refused to attend talks with Ethiopia and its northern neighbor Egypt, which has expressed for years its fears that the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile will dramatically threaten water supplies downstream.

Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said in a statement that the current approach to reaching a tripartite agreement on the filling and operation of Ethiopia's dam had not yielded results, and the AU should do more to facilitate the negotiation and bridge the gap between the three parties.

Sudan's boycott, however, could derail the complicated talks, which the AU has already taken the lead role in supporting. On Thursday, the foreign and irrigation ministers of the three Nile Valley countries met online, two weeks after they failed to agree on a new framework for negotiations.

There were no immediate comments from South Africa, which heads the African Union, Egypt or Ethiopia to Saturday's move by Sudan. It was not clear when they would restart negotiations.

Egypt had earlier said that it looks forward to taking part in the next round of trilateral talks with Ethiopia and Sudan. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry made this statement on Thursday after the foreign and water ministers of the three countries concluded a virtual meeting.

Egypt wants to reach "a binding legal agreement" on how to operate the Ethiopian giant dam as soon as possible, the ministry said. It also highlighted the necessity of reaching "a fair and balanced agreement that achieves the common interests of the three countries and preserves their water rights."

During the last round of trilateral talks held earlier this month, Egypt voiced its discontent as no progress was made in the negotiations.

Ethiopia started building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in 2011, which prompted concerns from downstream countries like Sudan and Egypt.

Over the past few years, the tripartite talks on the rules of filling and operating the GERD, including those recently brokered by the United States and the African Union, have been fruitless. — Agencies