The fourth round of trilateral negotiations involving Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) concluded without a resolution, prolonging the longstanding dispute. The talks, held in Addis Ababa from December 17-19, 2023, failed to meet the leaders’ commitment to a resolution before the year-end.
Sileshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s chief negotiator, highlighted that while some issues saw agreement, others, particularly Article 6, became contentious, causing delays. Article 6 focuses on water management during droughts, with experts from the three countries unable to reach consensus during the talks.
The disputed article outlines that, in the case of downstream droughts (Sudan, Egypt), water should flow directly from the reservoir, potentially requiring Ethiopia to lower reservoir levels. Ethiopia, emphasizing its development aspirations, refused to guarantee a permanent water release figure without clear agreement.
Egypt chose to discontinue the negotiations, a decision met with disagreement from Ethiopia and Sudan. The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed disappointment in Egypt’s insistence on termination, calling it an unfortunate development and suggesting a mutually beneficial agreement was within reach.
The talks faced challenges from the beginning, with Egypt accusing Ethiopia of refusing compromise solutions that safeguard the interests of all three countries. Ethiopia, in response, blamed Egypt for static and irrational demands and criticized Egypt’s colonial-era mentality.
Negotiations focused on guidelines and rules for the first filling and annual operation of the GERD, intended to build trust among the countries. Ethiopia affirmed its commitment to utilizing water resources for present and future generations based on equitable and reasonable principles.
Speculations arose about Egypt seeking to move negotiations away from the African Union’s purview following the talks’ failure. The Ethiopian government accused Egypt of attempting to undo previous negotiation achievements and criticized Egypt’s water-sharing proposals based on colonial agreements, which Ethiopia rejects.
Recent reports indicated appeals by Ethiopia and Egypt to the United Nations Security Council on the GERD issue. However, the future of negotiations remains uncertain, clouded in doubt and secrecy. The GERD construction progress stands at 94 percent, with concrete construction expected to conclude by the end of June, according to the Ambassador.