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Ethiopia, Sudan give no reply to Egypt’s invitation for dam talks in Cairo: FM

CAIRO, April 19 (Xinhua) — Egypt got no reply from Ethiopia and Sudan to its invitation for further talks in Cairo over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that is currently being built on their shared Nile River, the Egyptian foreign minister said in an interview with a local TV channel on Thursday.

“We’re sorry that we have not got a reply from Ethiopia and Sudan to this invitation, as we miss another chance to implement the instructions of the leaders of the three states,” said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

Ethiopia and Sudan eye massive benefits from the GERD construction, while Egypt is concerned it might affect its 55.5-billion-cubic-meter annual share of the Nile River water.

Earlier in April, a high-profile ministerial meeting of the three countries in Khartoum failed to reach an agreement over technical issues regarding the GERD, with Ethiopia and Sudan holding Egypt responsible for the failure of the talks.

Egypt later rejected the blame and said it joined the talks with “a positive spirit and an earnest desire to reach an agreement,” inviting Ethiopia and Sudan for further talks in Cairo.

The nine-member tripartite talks in Khartoum comprised the ministers of foreign affairs, those of water resources and the heads of intelligence services of the three countries.

“Every one should know that Egypt will not accept imposing a status quo through which the will of a party is imposed over another,” Shoukry said in the interview.

Egypt agrees to the preliminary report by hired French technical consultancy companies BRL and Artelia on the potential hydraulic, economic and environmental impacts of the GERD on the two downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopia, however, has not approved the study and sees it does not meet its aspirations, a position that halts and freezes the course of negotiations according to the Egyptian foreign minister.

In January, the presidents of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan met in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on the sidelines of the 30th African Union summit and agreed to avoid misunderstandings by joint cooperation on common interests.

The meetings of a tripartite technical committee on the GERD have been fruitless over the past sessions.

Egypt’s ties with Ethiopia have seen ups and downs since the latter started the dam project in April 2011 while Egypt was suffering turmoil following an uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

When Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi took office in 2014, he showed understanding of Ethiopia’s aspiration for development through the GERD that would produce around 6,000 megawatts of electricity to the country.

In March 2015, the leaders of upstream Nile Basin country Ethiopia and the two downstream partners Egypt and Sudan signed an initial cooperation deal on the principles of sharing the Nile River water and the construction of the GERD, which will be Africa’s largest dam upon completion.

On the other hand, Sisi and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir met in Cairo in mid-March and agreed to end all differences between the two African countries over a number of thorny issues.

In addition to the GERD issue, Egypt and Sudan have a territorial dispute over the border region of Halayeb and Shalateen, which is currently under Egyptian control.

In January, Khartoum recalled its ambassador to Egypt for consultation over “potential security threats” from Egypt and Eritrea following reported military moves in Eritrea’s Sawa area near the border with Sudan’s state of Kassala. The Sudanese ambassador later returned to Cairo.

Bashir also accused Egypt last year of providing military support for armed rebels in his country, which was strongly denied by Sisi.

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