Ethiopia to start filling GERD in July despite lack of agreement with Egypt, Sudan

Ahram Online , Tuesday 12 May 2020

FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. REUTERS

Despite Egypt’s diplomatic efforts to reach comprehensive agreement over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Ethiopia announced on Monday it is to start filling its mega dam in July 2020. 

Egypt has been abiding by the rules of international law since the onset of negotiations over the GERD despite Ethiopia's intransigence and sudden withdrawal from the last round of talks in Washington earlier this year to sign the final agreement over the rules of filling and operating the GERD. 

The Ethiopian announcement was made despite not reaching agreement with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopian media cited the Ethiopian irrigation minister Sileshi Bekele as saying.

Negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia have completely stalled, and Addis Ababa spread fallacies in the media, said Egypt's foreign minister. He noted that these actions do not show intention for peaceful negotiations or cooperation.

The Arab League adopted, during a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, a resolution submitted by Egypt to protect its rights to the Nile water and to castigate Ethiopia for failing to reach an agreement with Egypt and Sudan on the filling and operation of the GERD.

Bekele said the civil engineering part of the GERD has reached 87 percent completion while the general construction progress has reached 73 percent.

In November 2019, the US stepped in to host negotiations after Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia announced that talks on the operation and filling of the dam had reached a dead end. The three sides were expected to sign a final deal in late February, when the last meeting was scheduled to be held in Washington, but Ethiopia skipped the meeting, citing domestic reasons.

On 1 May Egypt sent a letter to the president of the UN Security Council about the GERD crisis after the failure of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to reach an agreement on its filling and operation, Shoukry said.

Egypt and Sudan have refused an Ethiopian agreement released on 10 April proposing a “partial agreement” that would only cover the first stage of the filling. 

The letter Egypt sent to the Security Council details the stages of GERD talks and the moves Egypt adopted in accordance with international law.

According to a progress report Bekele presented during a meeting between senior government officials led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the country will begin the first phase filling as of July 2020, Addis Standard reported.

Bekele asserted that Ethiopia “has prepared a comprehensive document that provides sufficient response” to the complaint Egypt filed to the UN Security Council over the filling of the GERD, the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported.

Bekele said filling the GERD “will be managed without causing harm to the downstream countries.”

The Ethiopian minister contended that the failure of the negotiations with downstream countries shows that Ethiopia “cannot be pressured into surrendering its interest.”

Egypt and Ethiopia are in disagreement over technical details regarding the operation and filling of the dam, which is under construction near Ethiopia's border with Sudan. Ethiopia hopes that the massive $4.8 billion project on the Blue Nile will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.

Egypt, which is downstream from the dam, fears that the project will diminish its share of Nile water, on which it is almost entirely reliant for fresh water.

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