The new chair of the African Union arrived in Sudan on Saturday for talks over Ethiopia’s controversial Nile dam, state media reported.
The one-day visit by Felix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, came as Sudan and Egypt push Ethiopia for a binding deal over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam.
Ethiopia says the electricity the structure will generate is important to its development, but downstream Egypt and Sudan fear for their own dams and vital water supplies.
Last month, the DRC hosted negotiations between the three countries but the talks ended without a deal.
Tshisekedi met Saturday with Sudan’s head of state Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, and foreign minister Mariam al-Mahdi, according to SUNA news agency.
“Talks mainly focused on differences between upstream and downstream countries over the Renaissance dam,” the agency reported.
During the talks, al-Mahdi voiced “strong rejection of unilateral steps” by Ethiopia, which began filling the dam’s reservoir last year.
Addis Ababa has said it will proceed with further filling this year regardless of whether a deal is reached.
Cairo views the dam as an existential threat, while Khartoum fears its own dams could be harmed without a deal.
Also on Saturday, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman held talks with top Sudanese officials over the GERD as well as Sudan-Ethiopia border tensions.
Feltman underscored “the importance of leading the negotiations under the umbrella of the African Union with the involvement of the international community,” Sudan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Relations between the two countries have soured in recent month over Al-Fashaqa, a fertile border region where Ethiopian farmers have long cultivated land claimed by Sudan.
The two sides have traded accusations of violence and territorial violations in the area.
Tshisekedi took up the rotating presidency of the AU in February after a one-year stint by South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.
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