Ethiopian water minister Ato Motuma Mekassa said that his country is willing to work to limit the negative effect of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Egypt and Sudan.
In an interview with state-run newspaper Akhbar Al-Youm, Mekassa revealed that Ethiopia has not yet begun to store water in the GERD reservoir as the timeline for this still hasn’t been set.
The minister stressed that Ethiopia is ready to cooperate with Egypt and Sudan to decrease the negative effects of the under-construction dam.
“We are ready to reduce any negative effect if proven by studies,” he said, adding that the technical studies offices will work for 11 months after signing the contracts with them, while construction of the dam continues.
Ethiopia is planning to end work on the GERD by 2017 or 2018. Cooperation between Nile basin countries will face any challenges and problems, so there is no need for any mediation from other countries, Mekassa stressed.
On Monday, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Abou Zaid, denied that Egypt demanded mediation by Israel in the GERD crisis, stressing that minister Sameh Shoukry’s visit to Israel focused on the Palestinian conflict and bilateral relations between Egypt and Israel.
The cooperation between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan is sufficient to achieve the three countries’ common interests, Abou Zaid said. In March 2015, the three signed the declaration of principles agreement that emphasised the principles of cooperation, development, and regional integration.
In the same context, Mekassa mentioned that now is not the appropriate time to discuss suggestions of common management between Egypt and Ethiopia of the GERD. Common work should be focused on exchanging expertise and benefits of the Nile , such as generating electricity, he said.
Regarding further suggestions on the table calling for establishment of a common administration between Nile basin countries to manage water projects being established on the river, Mekassa revealed that his country is not objecting such suggestions.
“Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan have similar interests to establish such administration as this action will achieve common benefit,” he added.
The GERD was established to achieve development in Ethiopia—not to harm any country, especially Egypt as we are keen to enhance cooperation to achieve progress in both our countries, he clarified.
Recently, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the sidelines of the 27th African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
Following the meeting, presidency spokesperson Alaa Youssef said in a statement that both parties are looking forward to the start of the international consulting desk’s studies regarding the GERD to reach common ground between Egypt’s concerns over a potential decrease in its share of Nile water and Ethiopia’s developmental endeavours.
The GERD, of which 70% has been completed, has strained relations between Ethiopia and Egypt since construction began in 2011, with relations reaching their lowest point in 2013.
In early June, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said it is finalising the deals with the consulting agencies to assess the impact of the GERD. Last year in December, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan signed the Khartoum Document addressing ways to enforce and execute the declaration of principles.