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Monday, 11 January 2021

On your mark, get set … stop.

The latest news from the GERD non-talks: Sunday’s rebooted Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) talks again ended in a stalemate, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan announced yesterday evening. Foreign and irrigation ministers from the three countries held virtual talks for the second time in less than a week in a bid to finally find a way to break the deadlock.

Remember: We’re not talking about the high stakes negotiations over the filling and operation of the dam here. At this point, the countries can’t even agree on a format for the next round of talks.

Fingers pointed at Sudan: Both Egypt and Ethiopia are blaming Sudan for the lack of progress. A statement from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that both countries “have reservations” about Sudan’s proposal to hand the African Union power to suggest compromises, while Ethiopia said that Sudan had rejected proposals put forward by South Africa to meet separately with AU experts. Sudan has made an expanded role for the AU its key demand before agreeing to a new round of talks, and has threatened to boycott meetings until Egypt and Ethiopia agree.

The view from Khartoum: “We cannot continue this vicious cycle of circular talks indefinitely,” Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas said in a statement carried by Sudanese news agency SUNA. Ethiopia plans to begin the second phase of filling the dam’s reservoir irrespective of whether an agreement is reached, Abbas said, citing an official statement it made to Egypt, Sudan, and the African Union. Addis Ababa is also attempting to dodge the talks and delay an agreement until it completes the ongoing first phase, Al Shorouk reports, quoting Sudanese sources.

Khartoum is separately concerned that GERD could lead to less water reaching its much smaller Roseires dam if Ethiopia doesn’t share data, Abbas said yesterday. Ethiopia pledged to address those concerns, it said in its statement.

The news is getting play in the foreign press: Associated Press | Bloomberg.

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