Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – Reuters
CAIRO - 13 June 2020: In comments to reporters, the Official Spokesperson of the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation said that he is not optimistic about the prospects of achieving a breakthrough during the ongoing negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. This, he noted, was due to Ethiopia’s intransigence which, once again, became abundantly clear during the ongoing meetings of the ministers of water resources of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
While Egypt exercised considerable flexibility and welcomed a compromise text prepared by Sudan as a possible basis for negotiations, Ethiopia presented, during the ministerial meeting that was held on June 11, 2020, a deeply troubling document that is both technically unsound and legally inadequate. This document, which both Egypt and Sudan rejected, confirms that Ethiopia lacks the requisite political will to conclude a fair agreement on the GERD and reveals its intention to exploit transboundary water resources in an unrestrained and unregulated manner and without taking into consideration the rights and interests of downstream communities and states.
The Official Spokesperson also outlined some of the disturbing elements of this Ethiopian text:
First, while Egypt and Sudan are seeking to conclude a legally binding instrument that regulates the filling and operation of the GERD and protects the interests of the three states, Ethiopia is hoping that the three countries will sign a non-binding text in which the downstream states sign-away their riparian rights and recognize an Ethiopian right to exercise unfettered unilateralism both in the use of the Blue Nile and during the filling and operation of the GERD.
Second, this document is designed to negate all the agreements and understandings reached by the three countries throughout almost a decade of negotiations, including the agreements reached during the recent rounds of negotiations held in the presence of the United States and the World Bank.
Third, this document provides virtually no guarantees to protect downstream states against the potential harm that will be inflicted upon them due to the filling and operation of the GERD.
Fourth, this document explicitly states that Ethiopia would enjoy a right to unilaterally alter the rules governing the filling and operation of the GERD to accommodate its energy and water needs, without even the slightest consideration to the interests of its co-riparians.
More disturbingly, the Official Spokesperson added, this text is clearly an attempt to establish a fait accompli. Ethiopia’s positon is that Egypt and Sudan should either sign a text that would make them hostages to Ethiopia’s will and whim, or accept Ethiopia’s decision to unilaterally fill the GERD. This, the Official Spokesperson stated, is wholly untenable. Ethiopia’s position is unfortunate and is not reflective of the spirit of cooperation and good neighborliness that ought to govern relations between co-riparians and fellow African countries.