Broader International Mediation Sought In GERD Impasse

US Reviews Ethiopia Aid Freeze

12 Mar 2021 by The Water Diplomat
WASHINGTON DC, United States

Egypt and Sudan have renewed their calls for a new negotiating mechanism mediated by four international parties to help resolve the long-running dispute with Ethiopia over the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) project.

It comes as the US plans to review the freeze of $272 Million USD in aid to Ethiopia imposed by the Trump administration in response to its GERD actions.

Following a meeting on 2 March, Cairo and Khartoum reiterated that they are seeking the establishment of a four-party mediation team lead by the African Union (AU) and comprising the UN, the EU and the US. So far, separate attempts at mediation by the AU and the US have failed to secure meaningful progress or produce the legally binding framework desired by Egypt and Sudan.

The biggest current stumbling block hampering the restart of the stalled negotiations among the three parties is Ethiopia’s intention to commence the second phase of filling the dam on the Blue Nile in July at the onset of this year’s rainy season.

Egypt and Sudan issued a joint statement saying: “Ethiopia’s unilateral move to commence the second filling of GERD reservoir would pose a direct threat to the water security of Egypt and Sudan, especially with regard to the operation of Sudanese dams, and risk the lives of 20 million people in Sudan.”

Ethiopia remains unconvinced by the proposal for 4-way mediation. At a press conference in Addis Ababa on 3 March, a spokesperson for the Ethiopian foreign ministry said: “The tendency to invite various parties as mediators to the issue while the AU-led negotiation has not been finalised is demeaning the efforts of the AU," adding that Addis Ababa believes the AU-brokered negotiation will bring a “win-win solution” to all parties.

It was Ethiopia’s move in 2020 to start filling the 6 GW dam that prompted the Trump administration to freeze the US aid package on the basis that the action contravened the agreement brokered by the US a year ago. Speaking to reporters, a US spokesperson said that the policy is under review and that the administration is looking at renewing efforts to mediate.

Ethiopia was unhappy with the water-sharing aspect of the US agreement, which it said provided assurances of outflow for drought mitigation downstream without taking into account fluctuations in inflow. Ethiopia argues that the agreement conflated drought with water shortage – an important differentiation when it comes to determining responsibility for mitigation.

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