South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks at the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 in Pretoria, South Africa, June 17, 2020. The summit, held via video link, was jointly proposed by China, South Africa, the rotating chair of the African Union (AU), and Senegal, the co-chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). (South Africa Presidency/Handout via Xinhua)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as African Union (AU) chairperson, on Monday reaffirmed the AU’s support for the conflicting parties to resume negotiations on their Nile dam dispute.

Ramaphosa was speaking as he announced the resumption on Tuesday of Trilateral Negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) following a seven-week break. He welcomed the commitment by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to pursue negotiations guided by the spirit of cooperation, goodwill and compromise with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.

Ramaphosa expressed his “utmost confidence” that the three parties will reach agreement on the remaining issues, including those related to the technical and legal aspects of the negotiations.

“The resumption of the Trilateral Negotiations on the GERD under the auspices of the African Union is indicative of the strong political will and commitment by the leadership of the three parties involved in the negotiations to the peaceful and amicable resolution of the GERD matter,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.

The resumption of negotiations is “a reaffirmation of the confidence that the parties have in an African-led negotiations process, in line with the pan-African maxim of African solutions to African problems, one of the cornerstones of the African Union,” he said.

“Without any doubt, the successful conclusion of the GERD negotiations will enhance and accelerate regional integration, while boosting cooperation and sustainable development in the region, for the benefit of Africa as a whole,” Ramaphosa said. The AU, he said, remains seized of the GERD matter.

Ethiopia started building the 6,500-MW GERD in 2011, and announced the first-year filling of the dam last July, but Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream, fear that the dam will greatly reduce their access to water. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has repeatedly vowed that the dam will not harm Egypt or Sudan, saying the project would “ensure an equitable and reasonable” utilization of the river waters among the three concerned countries. The three parties have held several rounds of talks but failed to settle their differences.

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