Sudan on Friday announced the resumption of negotiations with Egypt and Ethiopia over the controversial Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) under African Union sponsorship, as Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohammed Abdul Ati told atelevision channel that Ethiopia had “cheated” Egypt by building “a different dam” to one agreedon in negotiations.
An Egyptian statement issued while the talks were in progress said there were still “major differences” between Egypt and Ethiopia over the dam.
The African Union’s involvement in the talks came after trilateral talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia failed to reach an agreement, with Ethiopia insisting that it had the right to fill the Renaissance Dam’s reservoir at its own pace.
Friday’s talks were mediated by South Africa, which currently holds the chairmanship of the African Union.
Egypt fears that if Ethiopia fills the dam’s reservoir too quickly, the supply of vital Nile water to its territory would be severely reduced, potentially causing devastating drought and famine.
The dispute between the two countries exacerbated in the past two months, as Egypt referred the dispute to the UN Security Council and the Ethiopian military said they were ready to defend the dam against any potential attack.
Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmad recently announced that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan would sign an agreement over the dam in the coming weeks.
However, recent Ethiopian statements have contradicted those of Egypt and Sudan. Both of the countries have announced Ethiopia has agreed to delay filling the dam while Addis Ababa says that it is on track to fill the dam.
Also on Friday, Egypt’s minister of irrigation and water resources, Mohammed Abdul Ati, gave an interview to the DMC television channel in which he said, “Ethiopia cheated us and built a different dam to the one we agreed to.”
“The agreement was to build a dam on the Blue Nile but Ethiopia surprised Egypt and Sudan after the negotiations by building the Renaissance Dam. The agreement was for two dams on the Blue Nile in order to help Ethiopia”.
The Blue Nile, one of the Nile’s two main tributaries, originates in Ethiopia and is the source of 85 percent of the Nile water reaching Egypt.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has come under a lot of domestic criticism before for the way it has handled the negotiations over the Renaissance Dam, with Egyptians complaining of its inability to defend the country’s water supply.
Twitter users went further in mocking the minister’s confusing statements.
Twitter user “Sheko” posted, “Irrigation minister: it’s now clear that we were negotiating over a different dam to the Renaissance Dam… look at your papers again!”
Another Twitter user said: “The Egyptian irrigation minister’s statement today is a shameful scandal for the military rulers of Egypt. They’ve lost the Nile’s water by their own admission”
Meanwhile, the satirical Twitter account Salamah fi Kheir used dialogue from a popular Egyptian comedy play to criticise Abdul Ati: “They’re saying Ethiopia cheated us! We agreed on a dam and then they went and built the Renaissance Dam without telling us! I got engaged to Susu and then they married me off to Nadia!”