By Arab News
By Gobran Mohamed
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed held face-to-face talks to discuss the stalemate in negotiations over the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and how it might be overcome.
As a result, they agreed to resume negotiations and reach an agreement within four months.
The leaders met at Cairo’s Al-Ittihadiya Palace on Wednesday night, shortly after Ahmed arrived in Egypt for a summit of the leaders of Sudan’s seven neighboring countries. El-Sisi hosted the gathering on Thursday in the hope of finding a path to peace in Sudan, where rival military factions have been fighting since mid-April.
Egypt and Sudan have long been at odds with Ethiopia over its construction of the massive hydroelectric dam, amid fears that it will restrict the amount of water flowing down the Nile to them, with potentially devastating results.
According to a joint statement issued by the Egyptian presidency after the meeting on Wednesday, El-Sisi and Ahmed agreed on two main points.
Firstly, “to initiate expedited negotiations to finalize the agreement between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the filling of the GERD and the rules of its operations, and they will make all the necessary efforts to finalize it in four months.”
Secondly, “during the period of these negotiations, Ethiopia has indicated its commitment during the filling of the GERD within the hydrological year 2023-2024 not to cause significant harm to Egypt and Sudan in a manner that provides the water needs of both countries.”
The two leaders also reiterated their “mutual political will to enhance the bilateral relations politically, economically and culturally.”
This desire to boost ties “is based on the common desire to achieve their mutual interests and the prosperity of the two brotherly people, which will also actively contribute to the stability, peace and security of the region and their mutual ability to deal with common challenges.”
The dam is on the Blue Nile, one of two major tributaries that feed the Nile, in western Ethiopia just 10 kilometers from the border with Sudan. Egypt and Sudan have called for a legally binding agreement on how the dam will operate and filled but Ethiopian authorities have so far rejected such a proposal and say the dam is key to economic development and power generation in the country.
Egypt obtains more than 90 percent of its scarce fresh water from the Nile and fears the dam could devastate its economy if the flow is reduced. Filling of the dam began in mid-2020 and is continuing in phases, a process that is expected to take several years.