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Egypt, Sudan Seek to Resume GERD Negotiations

Egypt, Sudan Seek to Resume GERD Negotiations

Friday, 17 September, 2021 - 07:30
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry with the Deputy Prime Minister receiving Congo's Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula (Egypt's Foreign Ministry)

Egypt and Sudan said Thursday that they aim to resume negotiations with Addis Ababa on the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) at the earliest opportunity.

The UN Security Council adopted a statement Wednesday encouraging Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan "to resume negotiations" under the auspices of the African Union (AU) to swiftly conclude a deal on the controversial mega-dam.

The Council called upon the three countries to resume talks "in a constructive and cooperative manner” in order "to finalize expeditiously the text of [a] mutually acceptable and binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD."

Ethiopia expressed disappointment that the Council pronounced itself over a water rights and development issue outside of its jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met in Cairo with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Congo Christophe Lutundula as part of a tour that includes Khartoum and Addis Ababa.

The Republic Democratic of Congo (DRC) chairs the African Union this year.

During a joint press conference, Shoukry affirmed Egypt's willingness to receive invitations to resume the AU-sponsored GERD talks with Sudan and Ethiopia "at the earliest opportunity."

He indicated that the talks should be supported by the "active participation" of the international community to back the chair of the AU and reach a legally binding solution on the filling and operation of the dam.

The Egyptian FM said this support should also help "apply the principle of 'African Solutions to African Problems' and enhance the role of the AU's chair by giving them the chance to resort to international observers agreed upon by the three states."

Shoukry also said that he hopes the "African chairmanship will make a suitable decision that meets the aspirations of not only the three countries but also the international community, now represented in the Security Council."

The minister highlighted the importance of time in the GERD negotiations as indicated by the UNSC's statement, which called for resuming the talks and reaching a binding agreement within a reasonable timeframe.

Shoukry affirmed Egypt's "full readiness and flexibility" to study the proposals introduced based on the Congolese plan and provide DR Congo's presidency feedback about this document that "will contribute positively to relaunching the negotiations process."

He noted that a timeframe for the negotiations should be determined after they are launched.

Lutundula said he and Shoukry held "positive" discussions, hoping that a solution would be reached to the decade-long dispute.

Sudan hailed the UNSC's presidential statement as "balanced and takes into consideration the interests of the three sides."

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement affirming its readiness to engage in the AU-sponsored talks.

The Security Council's statement also reflects the importance the Council attaches to "this critical issue and its keenness to find a solution to avoid its repercussions on security and peace in the region," read Sudan's statement.

Lutundula arrived in Khartoum Thursday, and the Sudanese Foreign Minister, Maryam Al-Mahdi, said that Sudan looks forward to resuming the negotiations under AU leadership, stressing the need to change the ineffective methodology that prevailed in the previous rounds of talks.

The ministry said the negotiations should be conducted under a new methodology and tangible political will so that parties sign a binding agreement that considers their interests.

It should lead the three countries to a "binding agreement on the filling and operation of GERD following the fifth article of the statement that gives observers a facilitating role in the negotiation process," the Sudanese ministry added.

Lutundula handed Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi a document on GERD prepared by a team of joint experts from the Congolese presidency and the AU Commission.

The document contains a brief of the points of agreement and disagreement among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia regarding the dam for the experts to study and work on bringing the three countries' views closer to help them reach a satisfying deal.

In return, Ethiopia announced that it would not recognize any claims that might be raised based on the Security Council's statement.

Ethiopia's UN delegation said the statement in a non-legally binding form, adding that the statement took the proper position by referring the matter to the AU.

Ethiopia also attacked Tunisia's position on the Security Council statement, saying: "Tunisia made a historical mistake by requesting a position from the Security Council."

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