Ethiopia is being blamed by the Egyptian government for the lack of progress in the latest round of negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Aty said that Ethiopia had rejected a proposal that the three countries should reach a binding agreement in accordance with international law. He was speaking after a meeting of the water ministers of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on Thursday.
He said Ethiopia’s position was to agree on guidelines only, which could later be unilaterally amended by Addis Ababa. Negotiations over GERD first began almost 10 years ago.
Ethiopia hopes the $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile, which is predicted to generate 6,000 megawatts when completed, will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter. Both Sudan and Egypt have major concerns about the potential negative effects the dam could have on their own areas of the Nile.
“Ethiopia sought to reach an absolute right to establish projects in the Upper Blue Nile,” Abdel-Aty said. “Moreover, it refused (to agree) that the GERD agreement (should include) a legally binding mechanism to settle disputes. Ethiopia also rejected (a proposal) that the agreement (should) include efficient measures to respond to droughts.”
Abdel-Aty added, ”Egypt participated in the recent round of negotiations, called for by the brotherly nation of Sudan, with good intentions, in order to exhaust and explore all the available methods to reach a fair and balanced agreement on GERD in a way that would preserve Ethiopia’s developmental rights out of this project while minimizing the negative effects and damages caused by GERD on the two downstream countries. However, Ethiopia unfortunately continued its intransigent stances.”
Ethiopia’s reluctance to change views on GERD negotiations has also raised concerns in Sudan. The Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation issued a statement saying, “Despite the progress achieved in technical issues pertaining to filling and operating the dam, disputes pertaining to the legal aspects revealed real conceptual differences among the three parties on a number of issues, (including) how binding the agreement is, a dispute settlement mechanism, and disconnecting the agreement from any other agreements since the current accord is supposedly on filling and operating the dam, not on dividing the water shares among the three countries.”
“In light of such developments, the Sudanese delegation requested referring the disputed files to the prime ministers of the three countries to reach a political consensus on such files in a way that would provide the political will needed to resume negotiations as soon as possible following consultations between the ministers of irrigation of the three countries,” the statement continued.