Two days after the Arab League concluded its 32nd Summit in Jeddah, held earlier this month, Ethiopia issued a statement on 22 May in which it called on Egypt to abandon the “unlawful claim to monopoly over the Nile River, based on defunct colonial agreements.”
Ethiopia’s statement came following concerns expressed during the Arab League Summit regarding Ethiopian intransigence regarding the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which it is building on the Blue Nile. Lack of a concrete agreement between Ethiopia and the downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan threatens Egypt’s main water supply which overwhelmingly comes from the Nile waters. Extensive 10-year-long negotiations between the riparian countries to reach such an agreement have failed owing to notorious Ethiopian intransigence.
In its May 2023 summit, the Arab League urged Ethiopia to refrain from unilateral filling and operation of the dam. Ethiopia for its part did not accept the Arab League’s position, and described it as echoing the “hostile Egyptian rhetoric”, and considered it an affront to the African Union (AU) and the cherished history shared between Africa and the Arab World.
On 24 May, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a strong response to the Ethiopian claims. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the statement issued by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is “misleading and full of inaccuracies and twisted facts”. Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu-Zeid said that the statement is “a desperate attempt to drive a wedge between the Arab and African countries by portraying Arab support for Egypt’s just and responsible position as an Arab-African dispute.”
The Foreign Ministry Spokesperson expressed his regret over the false claims made by the Ethiopian statement which alleged that the three countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have already agreed during negotiations on the volume of water to be stored and the period for filling the GERD reservoir, and that Egypt and Sudan resorting to asking for Arab support is a violation of the Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries in March 2015. It even claimed Arab States that are members of the African Union (AU) do not support the Arab resolution issued during the last Summit.
“Egypt’s history of supporting national liberation movements in Africa, and the efforts and resources it allocates to support economic and social development and peace-building programmes in the continent, is not at all consistent with baseless allegations that Egypt mobilises Arab countries against African interests,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry stated. Mr Abu-Zeid said that the fact that Ethiopia is the host country of the AU headquarters does not qualify it to speak on behalf of the AU or its member States in a way to cover up its violations of the rules of international law and the principles of good neighbourliness.
Ambassador Abu Zeid concluded his remarks, refuting Ethiopia’s claim that it took into account the concerns of Egypt and Sudan, noting that this contradicts the fact that negotiations have continued for more than ten years without any positive outcome, and without any commitment or consideration for the rights of the downstream countries. He called on Ethiopia to stop using so-called “colonial treaties” as a pretext to evade legal obligations which it signed while it was a fully sovereign State, and its moral duty not to harm downstream countries. He also called on the Ethiopian side to stop blaming parties who simply demand its commitment to reach an outcome by the negotiations, which is a legally binding agreement that takes into account the existential concerns of the downstream countries and achieves the development aspirations of the Ethiopian people.
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