It seems that Egypt can no longer bear more unjustified Ethiopian procrastination in dealing with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and its indifference to the real concerns of the two downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan).
This was evident in Addis Ababa’s insistence to move forward and fill the second phase of the dam with nearly 14 billion sqm of the river’s water, nearly three times the volume of the initial filling carried out last year, by 4.9 billion cbm.
Last Monday, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Aaty announced that Cairo would not accept the unilateral measures taken by Ethiopia in its dam, which it is building over the Blue Nile, one of the most important tributaries of the Nile River.
Abdel Aaty added in press statements that the Ethiopian dam and its impact on the waters of the Nile River is one of the major challenges facing Egypt in light of Ethiopia’s unilateral measures.
He stressed that the huge negative repercussions resulting from these unilateral measures will not be accepted by the Egyptian state.
This is the second strongly-worded Egyptian warning, within a few days, about Addis Ababa’s determination to start the second phase of filling the dam’s reservoir.
Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly had earlier warned of the grave damage caused to Cairo and Khartoum, in case Ethiopia insisted on the second phase of filling the Dam during the summer of this year.
The Egyptian warning represents, along with Khartoum’s proposal to form a quadripartite mechanism from the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU), and the US, two pressures to persuade Ethiopia of the quartet mediation proposal for the Dam negotiations.
These negotiations have not succeeded since 2011 in reaching a solution that satisfies the three concerned parties, Khartoum, Cairo and Addis Ababa.
Besides, there are three pressure papers, which will be worked on in case that Ethiopia insists on taking unilateral measures related to filling and operating the dam.
The first is to seek to persuade Ethiopia to stop unilateral steps, by showing the damage that could be caused to downstream countries. This is especially since the filling process without a binding agreement that guarantees the exchange of information, operating guarantees, environmental and social management, will harm Sudan and threaten its national security.
This comes even though Sudan has already started taking the necessary technical measures to reduce the damages that may result from the second filling process if it is implemented without coordination between the two countries.
The second paper consists of intensifying regional and international diplomatic action to explain the current situation and its seriousness, to pressure Ethiopia to accept the proposal to expand the mediation umbrella to a quadripartite committee. This would include the AU, EU, UN, and US.
This new mechanism allows Sudan to use international law, to ensure that its interests are not harmed. But Ethiopia remains stubborn and rejects the Quartet’s proposal, relying on the principles agreement signed between them, Sudan, and Egypt in 2015.
This stipulates that if the negotiators of the three countries fail to reach an agreement, the presidents will only be resorted to resolve the conflict and not any other parties.
The third paper includes economic pressure papers, such as Khartoum resorting to taking advantage of Addis Ababa’s need for the Sudanese airspace, which is the most efficient and time-saving corridor for Ethiopian intercontinental air travel, as more than 10 Ethiopian flights pass through the Sudanese air daily to the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Everyone is well aware that Egypt can complete this file if it wants by non-peaceful means in a few minutes. There is regional, Arab, African, and international understanding of any step that Egypt might take if the Ethiopian regime tried to tamper with the lifeline on which Egypt and its people have lived since the beginning of creation.
Nevertheless, the Egyptian policy prefers to exhaust all peaceful, political, and diplomatic means to end this conflict. It declares this on the lips of all its political leadership, but at the same time, it has not completely deviated from the military option.
This represents an available option and will be permissible soon if the Ethiopian regime does not return to its senses. Indeed, the warning issued by Egypt on Monday may be the last.
Dr Hatem Sadek, Professor at Helwan University.