The African Union (AU) has called on Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt to “work expeditiously” for a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as AU chairperson, convened an Extraordinary Meeting of the AU Bureau of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government on July 21 to review progress on trilateral negotiations on the $5 billion mega dam.

The virtual meeting was attended by the presidents of Egypt, Kenya, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the prime ministers of Ethiopia and Sudan.

“The Bureau of the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government urged the Parties, with the support of the AU experts and observers, to work expeditiously to finalise the text of a binding Agreement on the Filling and Operation of the GERD,” the AU said in a statement issued late on Friday.

It said the agreement should also “[…] include a Comprehensive Agreement on future developments on the Blue Nile River.”

Ethiopia contributes 85% of the waters of the Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile River, but has not made any use of the resource so far.

In 2011, it started building the GERD on the Blue Nile near the border with Sudan.

The country plans to generate around 6,475 megawatts of electricity for domestic consumption, industrial use, and for exports to neighboring countries.

Egypt opposes the hydropower project, saying the dam will affect its annual share of the Nile’s water, amounting to 55.5 billion cubic meters.

The AU has been facilitating negotiations between the three countries since June, after talks sponsored by the US and the World Bank broke down in February.

Earlier this week, Ethiopia announced it has achieved the first-year target of filling the mega dam due to heavy rainfall in the ongoing rainy season, which lasts from June to August.

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