Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry said that although Egypt recognises Ethiopia’s right to development, the issue of the Nile is a matter of life and death for Egyptians, referring to the under-construction Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The minister said that Egypt is 95 percent desert and that 100 million Egyptians rely on the 55 billion cubic meters of Nile water, while Ethiopia has access to 936 billion cubic meters of water on the Ethiopian plateau.
In an interview with Al-Monitor in New York on Sunday, Shoukry said that he thinks this issue is a matter of international law that falls under the Declaration of Principles signed in 2015 by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to ensure access to the Nile waters for all three countries.
Last week, negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the regulations for filling and operating the GERD continued in Cairo after a year of stalemate. Egypt proposed that Ethiopia should fill the dam reservoir over a period of seven years, and wanted it to release 40 billion cubic meters of water every year. However, Ethiopia rejected Egypt’s proposal, claiming that it was “inappropriate” and infringes on Ethiopia's sovereignty.
Nebiat Getachew Assegid, the spokesman for the Ethiopian foreign ministry, explained in a statement that the timeframe of the mega hydroelectric dam project proposed by Egypt “ignores the procedure of the tripartite negotiation and obtrudes from the system.”
He stated that the proposal does not “respect current and future rights and development plans of Ethiopia over the Nile and complicates the filling of the dam.”
Shoukry expressed his frustration at Ethiopia’s latest stance, saying that the country should have clarified the reasons for its objections instead of totally dismissing the proposal. He also clarified that Egypt has no intention or desire to infringe on anyone’s sovereignty, but neither will it accept any violations of its own sovereignty.
Shoukry said that this issue is “a scientific issue” that should not be manipulated politically, and as a demonstration of good faith, Egypt previously proposed that the issue be regulated by the World Bank’s experts who can address it in a scientific manner.
Shoukry emphasised that after four years of negotiations, this issue must be resolved, and that the development of Ethiopia should not come at the expense of Egyptians’ lives.