Egypt, US diplomats discuss reviving talks over Nile dam

This handout picture taken on July 20, 2020 and released by Adwa Pictures on July 27, 2020 shows an aerial view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River in Guba, northwest Ethiopia. (YIRGA MENGISTU / ADWA PICTURES / AFP)

CAIRO – Egypt's Deputy Foreign Minister for African Affairs Hamdi Sanad Loza held talks on Saturday with US special envoy for Sudan Donald Booth on efforts to resume negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) built on the Nile River, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Loza stressed the necessity for reaching "an agreement on filling and operating the GERD at the earliest possible opportunity before Ethiopia begins carrying out the second phase of filling (the dam)," according to the statement.

Ethiopia started building the GERD in 2011, while Egypt is concerned it might affect its 55.5-billion-cubic-meter annual share of the Nile water

Ethiopia, an upstream Nile basin country, unilaterally carried out the first phase of filling the dam in July 2020 and is planning to go ahead with the second phase in July this year despite the concerns of Egypt and Sudan, which have repeatedly called for a prior tripartite binding agreement on the rules of filling and operating the controversial dam.

Booth is currently on a regional visit to Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the current president of the African Union (AU), to discuss ways of boosting the negotiation process between Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa over the GERD.

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The two diplomats also reviewed Sudan's proposal, which is backed by Egypt, of forming a DRC-led international quartet that includes the AU, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations to maximize chances of reaching "a fair, balanced and legally binding agreement" that meets the interests of the three states.

Ethiopia started building the GERD in 2011, while Egypt is concerned it might affect its 55.5-billion-cubic-meter annual share of the Nile water. Sudan has recently been raising similar concerns over the US$4-billion dam.

Over the past few years, tripartite talks on the rules of filling and operating the giant hydropower dam, whose total capacity is 74 billion cubic meters, have been fruitless, including those hosted earlier by Washington and the recent ones by the AU.

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