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The New Arab Staff

Nile talks 'last chance' to stop Ethiopia refilling Nile dam: Egypt

Ethiopia began filling the dam without the coordination of the other countries [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 April, 2021

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As the talks on the Nile dam Ethiopia is building are reaching their final stage, Egypt considers them the last opportunity to find an agreement.
Cairo warned on Sunday that the current meeting held between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in Kinshasa, Congo, could be the "last chance" to reach an agreement on the the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issue.

Launched on Saturday and concluding on Monday, the GERD talks are supposed to enable the three states to reach an agreement on the gravity dam on the Blue Nile river, which Ethiopia has been building since 2011 in order to produce enough electricity for the country and for export.

Discussions related to the filling and operation of the GERD had previously stalled, following the failure of talks between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.

"These negotiations represent the final opportunity the three countries must seize in order to reach an agreement... before the upcoming floods season," Egypt's foreign minister said in a statement.

"I invite all to make a new start, to open one, or many windows of hope," said Felix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, chairman of the African Union and the negotiations' mediator.

Last year, Ethiopia began the first phase of filling the dam without the coordination of the other countries downstream. Addis Ababa also indicated that it intended to proceed with the second phase of filling, regardless of the outcome of discussions between the three countries.

While Ethiopia has a lot to gain from the dam, Egypt is concerned that it will affect its 55.5 billion cubic metre annual share of the Nile water, something that the regime considers to be a death sentence as it represents 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water.

"The region will fall into unimaginable instability" if Egypt's water supply were affected by the dam, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said last Tuesday, adding that "nobody will be permitted to take a single drop of Egypt's water".

The third party, Sudan, fears its own dams will be compromised if Ethiopia proceeds with filling the GERD before a deal is reached.

On Wednesday, Cairo and Khartoum conducted joint military exercises amid heightened tensions between the two countries.

In March, Sudan submitted a formal request for international mediation to the European Union, the United Nations, the chairperson of the African Union, and the United States, formally requesting their help to break the impasse in the talks, while Ethiopia is seeking mediation through the African Union alone.

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