Ethiopia continues to reject several fundamental issues in the ongoing Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations, including the provisions that refelect the legally binding nature of the agreement, said the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources on Saturday.
Ministry’s statement came following the fourth meeting of the Ministries of Water of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan on Saturday, 13 June.
The statement indicated the rejection of the Ethiopian side to address technical issue regarding drought mitigation measures and prolonged dry years.
Egypt affirms that these issues are essential to reach an agreement on an “existential” matter affecting the livelihood of 150 million people in Egypt and Sudan.
The three sides are expected to tackle these issued on the next meeting on Monday.
Also, Saturday, Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation spokesperson Mohammed Sebaey said that the Ethiopian obstinacy has hindered any breakthrough in GERD negotiations.
In the meantime, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi discussed the latest updates regarding negotiations, during a phone call on Saturday, with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa.
Following tripartite negotiations were underway between ministers of water resources and irrigation from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, Sebaey said, at a press briefing, that he is not optimistic for the prospects of achieving a breakthrough in the GERD talks, due to Ethiopia’s stance.
“While Egypt exercised considerable flexibility and welcomed a compromise text prepared by Sudan as a possible basis for negotiations, Ethiopia presented, during the meeting that was held on 11 June, a deeply troubling document that is both technically unsound and legally inadequate,” he added.
According to Sebaey, the Ethiopian document, which was rejected by both Egypt and Sudan, reveals the real Ethiopian intentions “to exploit trans-boundary water resources in an unrestrained and unregulated manner and without taking into consideration the rights and interests of downstream states.”
It also shows that Addis Ababa government lacks the political will to reach a fair agreement on the GERD.
Sebaey said that the new Ethiopian document is an attempt to establish a fait accompli that would accomplish either one of two options. It could push Egypt and Sudan to sign a text holding them hostage to Ethiopia’s will, or it would see them accept Ethiopia’s decision to unilaterally fill the GERD.
He further clarified that both Egypt and Sudan are seeking to conclude a legally binding instrument regulating the filling and operation of GERD. This would also protect the interests of the three states at the same time.
Ethiopia, however, is hoping that the three countries will sign “a non-binding text in which the downstream states sign-away their riparian rights,” Sebaey said. This would recognise Ethiopia’s right to exercise unfettered unilateralism both in the use of the Blue Nile and during the filling and operation of the GERD.
Sebaey described the Ethiopian document as designed to negate all the agreements and understandings reached by the three countries throughout almost a decade of negotiations. This included cancelling the agreements reached during recent rounds of negotiations held in the presence of representatives of the US and the World Bank.
It provides no guarantees for the downstream states that their rights will be protected against potential harm due to the filling of the dam’s reservoirs.
The document also allows Addis Ababa to unilaterally alter the rules controlling the filling and operation of the GERD, ignoring the interests of Egypt and Sudan.
On 11 June, the ministers of water resources and irrigation from the three countries held a virtual meeting at Sudan’s request. The meeting was held to address the disputed points over the GERD. During the meeting, however, the Ethiopian representative suggested the new document.
Egypt considered Ethiopia’s new document as a time-consuming tool to allow Addis Ababa to finalise the project without reaching a fair compromise.