A spokesperson for Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources has said that the two-day ministerial meeting held in Cairo on 27 – 28 August between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia to discuss reaching an agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has ended with no tangible change in the Ethiopian stance. This despite the fact that Seleshi Bekele, head of the Ethiopian negotiation team, had said beforehand that Ethiopia would continue working to reach an “amicable” conclusion to negotiations on GERD.
Ethiopia started building the GERD over the Blue Nile on the Abyssinian Plateau in 2011 to generate electricity; the Blue Nile is the main conduit for the annual flood waters reaching Egypt and forming the bulk of its water supply. So far, it has made four fillings and already started power generation; all moves were decided unilaterally without including the downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan.
Egypt, which has from time immemorial depended on the River Nile as its almost sole water resource—without the river the country is technically a desert—seeks a legally binding agreement with Ethiopia on the filling and operation of the dam, given that GERD stands to reduce the waters flowing downstream into Egypt, thus threatening its water security. The country’s annual share of water is 500 cubic metres per person, half the 1,000 cubic metres per person that the United Nations defines as the water scarcity threshold.
Negotiations regarding a GERD agreement have continued for more than ten years. According to Egypt, Ethiopian intransigence has led to no positive outcome and no commitment or consideration for the rights of the downstream countries.
The recent trilateral talks in Cairo are the first direct negotiations in over two years to resolve the decade-old dispute between Egypt and Sudan, on the one hand, and Ethiopia, on the other, over the dispute on the filling and operation GERD.
The last round of GERD talks between the three parties to reach an agreement, was sponsored by the African Union, but collapsed in April 2021.
The new round of recent discussions came in light of an agreement reached by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a summit meeting held in Egypt last July for Sudan’s Neighbouring Countries. Back then, President Sisi and Abiy Ahmed agreed to restart GERD talks soon in order to resolve the dispute within four months.
The spokesperson for the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources stressed that Egypt would unfailingly continue its effort to reach a legally binding agreement on GERD, in a manner that would respect Egypt’s water security and at the same time observe the interests of all the riparian nations.
29 August 2023