Egypt rejects Ethiopia’s proposal to postpone discussions on filling, operating Nile dam

FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. Picture taken September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

Egypt rejected on Friday an Ethiopian proposal to postpone tackling controversial points on the rules of filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) until after an agreement is reached.

Ethiopia demanded to refer these issues to a technical committee that will be formed to follow up the implementation of the terms of the agreement, the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation said in a statement.

However, the ministry said it has totally rejected the proposal, noting that such major technical issues cannot be referred to the technical committee to be decided later after signing an agreement.

For the eighth day in a row, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have been engaged in talks which are sponsored by the African Union. The talks, which are meant to bridge the gaps between the three countries, are also attended by experts from the United States and the European Union.

The ministry said Egypt has put forward some alternative formulations in an attempt to bring views closer regarding times of drought or extended drought, in addition to the annual filling and operation rules.

The ministry said that it has been agreed that Ethiopia would study the alternatives proposed by Egypt, adding that the Egyptian proposals would be tackled during a tripartite ministerial meeting that will be held on July 12.

It added that discussions of the legal committee made no progress on controversial points.

Over the past few years, tripartite talks on the rules of filling and operating Ethiopia’s grand hydropower dam have been fruitless, including those hosted by Washington, amid Egyptian concerns that the GERD would affect Egypt’s annual share of the Nile water.

Ethiopia has recently said that it would soon start filling the reservoir, while Egypt has repeatedly warned against any unilateral action without a prior tripartite agreement.

The 4-billion-dollar GERD is expected to produce over 6,000 megawatts of electricity and become Africa’s largest hydropower dam upon completion.

Filling the reservoir, whose total capacity is 74 billion cubic meters, may take several years. Egypt seeks to prolong the period of filling process to avoid the possible impacts of water shortage, which is a main point of their talks.