Yesterday the Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok called for a resumption of trilateral talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) between Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
In a phone call with the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Hamdok stressed on the need to resume talks on GERD: “After overcoming the coronavirus pandemic that the world is currently experiencing.”
During the call, the Sudanese official extended his condolences to the US over the recent rise in the number of infection cases of the novel virus.
Ethiopia is building a $5 billion dam near the border with Sudan, which it claims will provide the country with much-needed electricity and economic regeneration. Egypt believes that when the dam is filled, already-scarce water supplies from the Nile will be restricted.
Egypt is almost entirely dependent on Nile water, receiving around 55.5 million cubic metres a year from the river, and believes that filling the dam will affect the water it requires for drinking, agriculture, and electricity.
After three-way talks between the African countries failed, they settled in the US with an external mediator.
In November, the US-brokered a meeting in Washington, setting 15 January as a deadline for resolving the dispute, which at one point looked set to break into a military conflict between Cairo and Addis Ababa. They agreed on four rounds of negotiations. The first was held in the Ethiopian capital, the second in Cairo and the third in Khartoum.
Despite discussions looking promising, over Christmas, they stalled again following the third round in the Sudanese capital.
Cairo wants Ethiopia to guarantee that Egypt will receive 40 billion cubic metres, or more, of water from the Nile. Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele stated that Egypt has abandoned this demand, but Egypt insists that it has not, and issued a statement to this effect.
There is also unresolved conflict over how fast the dam will be filled, with Egypt fearing that if it is filled too quickly, it could affect the electricity generated by the Aswan High Dam. Egypt wants the filling to take place across seven years, whilst Ethiopia is pushing for four years.