Ethiopia surprised Egypt and Sudan on Saturday by announcing that the first phase of filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) lake would begin in July 2020.
Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Electricity Seleshi Bekele made the announcement during the third round of talks that kicked off in Khartoum between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, and in the presence of the representative of the US Department of the Treasury and the World Bank.
“The last round of talks in Cairo was disappointing, and despite that, we hoped to reach an agreement on disputed issues between Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia,” Bekele said at the meeting, which aims to negotiate the rules of filling the GERD reservoir.
The foreign ministers and water resources ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia met in Washington last November to discuss issues related to the dam and they agreed to hold four technical meetings to follow up and assess the progress.
The first meeting was held in Ethiopia in November and the second meeting was held in Cairo in December.
Also at Saturday’s meeting, Sudanese Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Yasser Abbas said the Nile Water should be fairly used among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia without harming any party.
“The Nile River is the source of life for Egypt. Egypt needs Nile water. So does Sudan. We assert our rights in Nile water,” Abbas said. “There is enough of Nile water to be used in a rational and cooperative way,” the minister explained.
For his part, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Aty said there is a need to emphasis the discussion on the issue of filling and operating the dam together with the periods of droughts and desertification.
He said Egypt prefers reaching a comprehensive deal on all issues of the GERD based on the Declaration of Principles signed in 2015 as a reference agreement.
Ethiopia’s construction of GERD on the Blue Nile began in 2012, but since then Egypt has sounded the alarm that the project would severely reduce its water supplies.