GERD: A year since talks collapsed



Mon, 04 Apr 2022 - 12:11 GMT


Mon, 04 Apr 2022 - 12:11 GMT

A file photo for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – Twitter/Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

A file photo for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – Twitter/Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

CAIRO – 4 April 2022: A year ago, the negotiations held under the auspices of the African Union (AU) on the Ethiopian dam in DR Congo’s Kinshasa collapsed, and Ethiopia announced that it will move forward with the second filling phase with or without a deal with Egypt and Sudan.

Since the Kinshasa talks collapsed, Ethiopia has embarked on a series of unilateral acts that are believed to have a grave effect on the two downstream countries.

On the other side, Egypt and Sudan have rolled their sleeves up and have been keen to deliver their concerns to the international community on the diplomatic levels in a bid to help stop the Ethiopian unilateral acts and bring Ethiopia back to the negotiations table.

While the two downstream countries have blamed the failure of negotiations on Ethiopia’s “intransigence,” Addis Ababa has asserted repeatedly that it is an Ethiopian right to use the River Nile to serve its development purposes.

Egypt and Sudan have reiterated that they are not against the Ethiopian development goals. However, those goals should not harm their water rights and interests of their peoples in the Nile.

The Security Council

With Ethiopia turning a blind eye on the Egyptian and Sudanese calls, the downstream countries have decided to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Speaking during the UNSC session on GERD on 8 July 2021, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry warned against the negative impact of the GERD in case of a lack of an agreement with Sudan and Ethiopia, saying Egypt “will protect its right in life” in case its “existence is jeopardized”.

Shoukry said the Ethiopian dam represents an existential threat to Egypt, noting that the Egyptian scientific research confirms that GERD can cause significant damage to Egypt and despite Egyptian efforts to preserve water and reuse it, the harm will spread as a plague among the Egyptian people.

In the absence of a binding deal on GERD, this project may lead to a cumulative shortage of water in Egypt estimated at 110 billion cubic meters, Shoukry said.

This shortage will reduce the chance of obtaining clean drinking water, deprive millions of workers at the agricultural sector from the required water for their lands and destroy thousands of feddans of arable lands, the top Egyptian diplomat said.

The minister affirmed that Egypt will not accept or tolerate the negative impact of GERD.

In case the Egyptian water rights are harmed or its existence is jeopardized, Egypt's only option will be to protect its right in life, Shoukry said.

In a challenging tone, however, Ethiopia announced on 19 July completing the second filling of the dam.

Presidential statement

On 15 September, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement on GERD, calling for the resumption of the negotiations sponsored by the African Union to reach a “binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD”.

This is the first time the Security Council issues a statement on GERD.

“The Security Council encourages Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to restart the AU-led negotiations to finalize expeditiously the text of a mutually acceptable and binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD,” the UNSC said.

Egypt and Sudan have welcomed the UNSC statement. Ethiopia, however, Ethiopia, however, refused to recognize any claim that may be announced based on this statement.

In remarks following the UNSC announcement, Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged observers of previous GERD negotiations to be involved in future dam talks to continue supporting the negotiation to facilitate all technical, or any other issues regarding the agreement.

Egypt stated that the UNSC statement, issued as part the body's commitment to preserving international peace and security, reaffirms the special importance state members attach to the dam issue, as well as their appreciation of the dire need to contain its grave implications on international peace and security.

Egypt noted that UNSC statement represents an important impetus to the efforts made for the success of the AU sponsored talks on GERD.

Readiness for reengagement

The three countries have shown keenness to continue their GERD negotiations under the African Union.

Egypt and Sudan have stressed the importance of moving forward to serious negotiations regarding the dam to lead a binding legal agreement that achieves the interests of the three countries.

In a meeting in March Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Sudanese foreign Minister-designate Ali Al-Sadiq Ali called upon Ethiopia to actively engage in these negotiations as soon as possible.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Shoukry have also reiterated in many occasions Egypt’s desire to continue talks with Ethiopia to reach a deal in high-level meetings and phone calls with their counterparts.

However, talks have not yet been resumed and Ethiopia has continued to take unilateral acts.

Unilateral operation

In February, Ethiopia announced the start of the power generation from the dam, noting that is considered a pilot phase as the filling has not reached full capacity and not all turbines have been installed.  

Egypt and Sudan have condemned the unilateral step as a breach to the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries and the international obligations in this regard.

The unilateral actions regarding GERD are part of an Ethiopian policy of unilateral exploitation of international rivers, Shoukry said at the 157th ordinary session of the Council of the League of Arab States at the level of foreign ministers in March.

Shoukry affirmed Egypt’s rejection of Ethiopia’s commencement of operating GERD last month unilaterally.

“This is considered a perpetuation on the part of the Ethiopian side in violating its obligations under the 2015 Declaration of Principles (DoP), after Ethiopia moved on with filling the dam unilaterally over the past two years,” he stated.

Ethiopia’s policy of unilateral exploitation of international rivers had caused harms to Ethiopia’s neighboring countries, Shoukry said, including Somalia.

Egypt looks forward to having the support of Arab countries and all international partners to urge Ethiopia to deliver on its pledges and have the spirit of cooperation, Shoukry said.

He affirmed the need that Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia agree without a delay on a fair and legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam in line with the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) presidential statement issued last September.



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