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Sunday, 1 March 2020

Washington GERD talks wrap without agreement as Ethiopia no-shows

Washington GERD talks wrap without agreement as Ethiopia no-shows: Egypt is waiting on Ethiopia and Sudan to agree to sign the final pact on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) “as soon as possible” after the latest round of talks in Washington, DC, once again did not yield a signed accord, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. Egypt had initialed a preliminary draft of the agreement during a previous round of negotiations in the US capital, but was the only country of the three to do so. Ethiopian officials did not attend the talks, the Associated Press reports. Ethiopia had said last week it would not attend what had widely been expected to be the final round of GERD talks, and had asked the US to push the meeting to give it more time for “consultation.” Sudanese officials attended the talks, and held separate bilateral meetings with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Egypt showed up ready to sign, but Ethiopia still has “reservations”: Egyptian officials who were in Washington on Thursday and Friday for the talks showed “readiness” to sign the agreement, and had signaled the government’s “commitment” by approving the preliminary draft, according to a US Treasury Department statement on Friday. Addis Ababa is still holding its national consultations, the statement says, without providing further details.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuching called on Ethiopia to prevent “significant harm to downstream countries,” saying that “final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.”

The US is still going to act as a mediator until a final agreement is reached, according to the statement, stressing that the filling of the dam should not begin before the three countries ink the agreement. Reuters and Bloomberg have the story.

Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan had agreed to hammer out an accord by the end of February, but a final agreement has remained elusive even as the US and the World Bank stepped up their efforts to mediate the dispute. Leaks earlier this month suggested that Egypt and Ethiopia remain at loggerheads over key aspects of filling and operating the dam, with the US pressuring both sides to make concessions on how much water will be released each year, how to monitor the flow, and even on the definition of “severe drought.” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested a final agreement could be “months” away, saying last month that “a great [amount] of work remains” to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.

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