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Sudan’s sudden shift

Sudan’s sudden shift

In what seems to be a U-turn to the stand Sudan has previously taken over the Nile, reports are circulating that Sudan has rejected a proposal to sign a partial agreement with Ethiopia on the first filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), scheduled to start the coming July.

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok said that the way to reach a comprehensive agreement includes the immediate resumption of negotiations between the three countries that took place in Washington, which has made progress in the last four months. Subsequently, Hamdok rejected a proposal submitted to him in a letter by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, to sign a partial agreement on the dam’s filling, the report claims.

“Any signing of a partial agreement for the first filling could not be approved due to technical and legal aspects that should be included in the agreement,” Hamdok said.

Sudan believes that current circumstances do not allow for talks through normal diplomatic channels, which he said have been temporarily halted due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Hamdok however, mentioned that teleconferences are an alternative, as they are a means to complete negotiations and agree on outstanding issues. 

In early May, Egypt submitted a complaint to the UN Security Council about Ethiopia’s proposal to fill the GERD. However, the Ethiopian government downplayed the complaint and stated that preparations are underway to provide a response for the complaint.

Though, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan were engaged in a series of negotiations about the GERD, agreement was not reached since Egypt claimed it had a historical right over the Nile. However, such sentiment has been swiftly rejected by the Ethiopian side repeatedly by siting the project is not aimed at harming any one and strives to ensure equitable distribution of water.

Nevertheless, recently, the three countries went to Washington in a bid to address the issue. However, as usual, the negotiation bore little to no fruit due to the position the US had taken regarding the filling and operation of the dam. It can be recalled that the US had positioned itself as a mediator while its role was merely that of an observers.