Sudan says political options are the best way to solve GERD dispute

One of Africa’s most ambitious projects, Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam is set to turn the East African country into Africa’s water powerhouse. Image courtesy: All Africa

Sudan on Thursday reiterated keenness to reach a deal over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that satisfies all parties.

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

“We reaffirm Sudan’s firm and vigorous keenness to reach an agreement that satisfies all parties and preserves their interests, including Ethiopia’s right to development, on the condition that a binding agreement is signed on filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam and in accordance with what was agreed upon in the (2015) Declaration of Principles,” said Sudan’s Foreign Ministry in a statement.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi also ruled out military action to stop Ethiopia from filling its controversial dam, during a visit to Qatar Thursday.

‘There is no room to talk about the military option. We are now talking about political options,’ al-Mahdi told reporters in Doha.

al-Mahdi’s comments come a day after Ethiopia said it would press on with filling the GERD dam, sparking warnings from Sudan and Egypt.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Addis Ababa broke ground on it in 2011.

Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat because of their dependence on Nile waters, while Ethiopia considers it essential for its electrification and development. Ethiopia expects to produce more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity from the dam project.

In February, Ethiopia said it would carry on with the second-phase 13.5-billion-cubic-meter filling of the GERD in June. The volume of the first-phase filling last year was 4.9 billion cubic meters.

Egypt and Sudan had wanted an agreement on the dam’s operations to be reached before reservoir filling began last year.

Sudan’s irrigation minister warned Wednesday that his country stood ready to harden its stance in the dispute.

‘For Sudan, all options are possible, including returning (the matter) to the UN Security Council (UNSC) and hardening policy… (if) Ethiopia embarks on a second filling (of the dam) without agreement,’ Yasser Abbas told reporters.

On Thursday, Sudan’s head of state Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, also in Doha, said he would ‘request all assistance’ to reach an agreement.