By: Aisha Braima
KHARTOUM (SUDANOW )- Six ministers from Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia have decided to extend by one day their meetings here, apparently not reaching a conclusive stand during the past two days of talks in Khartoum on whether to halt or continue construction works on the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Early morning Tuesday the ministers decided to extend by one day the talks in the hope of reaching a point of agreement on the issue, according to the Sudanese minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Ibrahim Ghandour.
The ministers of foreign affairs from the three countries along with the ministers of water resources started this round of talks on Sunday to discuss details of the declaration of principles the heads of state concluded in March, this year.
Egypt has made no secret of its suspicion about the impact of the dam, 20 km away from joint borders between Sudan and Ethiopia, on its water security saying it wanted more reassurances.
Two months ago the same ministers met in Khartoum to discuss appointment of a technical international firm that would provide expertise advise on any hazards and to reassure Khartoum and Cairo that the dam would not have serious negative impact on their share of water. That meeting as well ended with the three sides shelving the contentious issues to the current encounter.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour was quoted by the official media, including Radio Omdurman and the Sudan News Agency as saying the second meeting of Monday lasted for 13 hours, adding that the conferees reached "understandings" which he did not specify, implying that the two-day meetings were inconclusive.
He said the Foreign and Water Resources ministers of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt would today continue negotiations on the tabled agenda and would issue a communiqué after the talks.
Ghandour said the parties are determined to reach solutions satisfactory to all of them.
According to statistics released earlier by the Dams Unit at the Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation, the overall storage capacity of the Renaissance Dam is 74 billion cubic meters (of which 60 billion live storage). The lake covers an area of 1800 meters and extends 246 km, with the maximum highest of the dam reaching 145 meters. The dam
produces 15700 gigawatt/h annually.
The dam ranks number eight worldwide with regard to its hydroelectricity generation. The first such dam is the Chinese three straits dam which produces 22500 megawatts.
Egypt is worried that the 1956 water sharing agreement it signed with Sudan, which was still under British colonial rule, would be seriously undermined by the new dam. In that agreement Sudan receives 18 billion cubic meters and Egypt 52 billion cubic meters of Nile water.
The Sudan has rarely made any full use of its share, of 18 billion annual cubic meters and most of it goes to Egypt. However, Egypt was anxious that the new dam which will store 72 billion cubic meters would affect the river Nile water flow.
The meetings so far appear to have failed to address that Egyptian concern, albeit Ethiopian reassurances. Thus tension was running high, especially in the Egyptian media attacking Ethiopian and Sudanese leadership, saying Sudan kept a low profile and failed to back Egyptian position on the matter.
Observers believe that if the ministers fail for the second time, with the Ethiopians earnestly engaged in their construction works, tension could go higher.
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