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Tripartite talks over GERD to continue despite change of date
Sileshi Bekele (PhD, Eng.)

Tripartite talks over GERD to continue despite change of date

The Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity (MoWIE), on Tuesday disclosed that, the planned negotiation between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt will continue this month despite the change in meeting date that was earlier set by the leaders of the three countries.

Over the past week reports widely circulated that the meeting was postponed due to the current unstable situation in Ethiopia which saw the Prime Minister resign amid wide protests.

The Minister, Sileshi Bekele (PhD, Eng.) who called a press conference this week in connection to the 12th Nile Day Celebration, was asked for his comment over the recent news reports.

In his response, Sileshi confirmed that the ministers of the three countries agreed to reschedule the meeting day “just only by a few days”. Further, he noted that Ethiopia has neither requested nor made any pressure to get the meeting days rescheduled.

“It is because the trio (ministers) wanted to shift the meeting day to conduct the talks on this issue with sufficient time despite the obvious facts prevailing in Ethiopia currently,” Sileshi told reporters.

Last month the leaders of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan set a one-month deadline for laying out the ways to break the deadlock in talks over GERD, which is under construction on Blue Nile. It was scheduled to be hosted by Khartoum at its technical and ministerial levels on February 24 and 25.

In light of the current situation, Ethiopia has hosted on Thursday, this year’s Nile Day which is an annual event to commemorate the day on which countries situated along the banks of the Nile River, came together to establish the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) — a cooperation and dialogue platform.

Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Eritrea are the countries in a basin that is home to more than 250 million people.

But here in Addis Ababa, the day was marked with Egypt and Eritrea took part in the celebrations for the first time.

Egypt, along with Sudan, walked out from the group in 2010 following the upper stream countries signature in the historic Cooperative Frame Work Agreement (CFA) in Entebbe, Uganda. Sudan has rejoined the group after two years but Egypt still remains out of the group despite recent interest of coming back to the group, providing preconditions which have been rejected by the existing member countries. Sileshi, the current Chairman of the Nile Council of Ministers, lauded the participation of Egypt this year saying that “it is one case that proves NBI’s transformation to a more progressive march that would send it toward an institution level more than anytime”.

Similarly, Eritrea which has an observer status instead of a full membership, has also participated for the first time in Ethiopia since the deadly clash due to the longstanding border skirmish.

On Thursday, with street marches followed by exhibition and symposium held, the marchers wearing white caps and T-shirts displaying the theme of the day— Shared River, Collective Action— colorfully marched from Meskel Square to the premises of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Speaking at the meeting that marked the day, at the ECA, Minister Sileshi once again extended a call for Egypt to come back to the Nile Basin Initiative, from which it distanced itself by freezing its membership for eight years.

Sileshi said, there was no alternative to the cooperation between the riparian countries on the Nile delta.

“Benefiting equitably calls for cooperation among all riparian countries,” he said.

The guest of honor in the event, President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) said that, enhanced cooperation should be fostered among the riparian countries.