Egypt expressed concerns Tuesday that recent Sudan mediated talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dame (GERD) will become a new tool at Ethiopia’s disposal to waste time and hinder reaching an agreement.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi headed a meeting with the National Security Council to discuss developments regarding the contentious GERD dam.
A statement from the Egyptian Presidency said that Egypt received an invitation from the Sudanese Minister of Irrigation to resume GERD negotiations on Tuesday.
It assured that Egypt was committed to its stance of negotiating to reach a fair and balanced agreement that achieves the interests of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, but lamented that this invitation came late – three weeks since the launch of negotiations.
A firm time-frame must be in place to conduct and finalize these negotiations, Egypt stressed, so that it does not become yet another way to delay the obligations contained in the Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries back in 2015.
Sudan’s invitation came the very same day that Ethiopian authorities announced their intention to move forward with filling the GERD reservoir without reaching an agreement, the statement added.
“This is inconsistent with Ethiopia’s legal obligations contained in the Declaration of Principles, and necessarily casts a shadow on the negotiating track as well as the results that may be reached,” the statement said.
Despite this, it added that Egypt will participate in this meeting in order to explore the availability of political will towards an agreement and to confirm Egypt’s continuous goodwill in this regard.
Negotiations over the GERD were suspended in February after Ethiopia refused to sign a draft agreement prepared by the United States and the World Bank.
On May 21, the Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed agreed on the necessity for all three parties to return to the negotiating table to complete the remaining part of the agreement to fill and operate the dam.
Ethiopia announced its endeavor to store 4.9 billion cubic meters of Nile waters in the reservoir of the dam in July, while Cairo insists on adhering to the reference of Washington’s talks on filling and operating rules for GERD, as well as to the declaration of principles signed between the three countries in 2015.
Egypt took part in the latest GERD meeting in Washington on February 27 and 28, which produced a final agreement regarding filling and operating the GERD.
Representatives from Addis Ababa were noticeably absent from the meeting, and only Egypt has signed the agreement so far. Sudan has also abstained from signing the agreement to fill and operate the GERD.
Ethiopia has also warned that it would begin filling the dam in July without signing an agreement. Construction is not due to be finished until 2023.
Egypt’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources has rejected Ethiopia’s plan to fill the reservoir of the GERD before construction work is finished and regardless of whether an agreement has been reached with downstream countries.
Egypt relies considerably on fresh water from the Nile and has voiced concerns that the GERD would negatively impact the country’s water supply, especially in light of overpopulation fears, and has thus insisted throughout negotiations that measures be put in place to protect downstream countries in case of drought during the filling process at the dam.