FILE- A general view shows construction activity on the Grand Renaissance dam in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz region in this March 16, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Files
CAIRO - 29 February 2020: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin praised Egypt’s move of initialing the US-drafted deal of the rules for filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, cautioning Ethiopia against testing and filling the dam without reaching an agreement.
“We appreciate the readiness of the government of Egypt to sign the agreement and its initialing of the agreement to evidence its commitment,” said Mnuchin in a statement, adding “consistent with the principles set out in the DOP, and in particular the principles of not causing significant harm to downstream countries, final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.
On Friday evening, Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it has unilaterally initialed the deal, saying “In light of the fact that this agreement preserves Egypt’s water interests and ensures that it is not subjected to significant harm, Egypt has initialed this agreement as an affirmation of its serious will to achieve its objects and purposes.”
Only Egypt and Sudan participated in the final round of US,WB-brokered meetings in Washington after Ethiopia abstained from the participation.
Ahead of the consultations, Ethiopian ambassador to the U.S. Fitsum Arega tweeted that his country will not attend the meetings, saying that Ethiopia will not sign any agreement that would make it give up its Nile water rights.
During the two-day meetings, the Sudanese delegation asked for postponing the talks until conducting national consultations, the Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources said in a statement on Saturday, confirming the necessity of reaching a comprehensive agreement on a safe operation of the Ethiopian dam before starting filling and operating it.
Sudan affirmed its commitment to the negotiating process for reaching a comprehensive agreement on the dam that guarantees the rights and interests of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
The difference between the three Nile basin countries dates back to May 2011 when Ethiopia started building the dam; Egypt voiced concern over its water share [55.5 billion cubic meters]. Three years later, a series of tripartite talks between the two countries along with Sudan began to reach an agreement while Ethiopia continued the dam construction.
In 2015, the three countries signed the Declaration of Principles, per which the downstream countries [Egypt and Sudan] should not be negatively affected by the construction of the dam. Since then, the talks have been resumed, but In October 2019 blamed Addis Ababa for hindering a final agreement concerning a technical problem, calling for activating the Article No. 10 of the Declaration of Principles, which stipulates that if the three countries could not find a solution to these differences, they have to ask for mediation.