Ethiopia says Egypt's proposal on filling of GERD 'puts sovereignty in question'

Menna Alaa El-Din , Friday 20 Sep 2019

An archival for the establishment process of Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam (Photo: Al Ahram)

Ethiopia had reiterated its criticism of an Egyptian proposal on the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), saying it “puts Ethiopia's sovereignty in question,” after fresh negotiations on the mega-dam in Cairo this week concluded in a stalemate.

The spokesman for the Ethiopian foreign ministry, Nebiat Getachew Assegid, said on Friday in statements reported by the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) that "any move that does not respect Ethiopia’s sovereignty and its right to use the Nile dam has no acceptance.”

The strong-worded statements come one day after Sileshi Bekele, Ethiopia's minister of water and irrigation, rejected Egypt's proposal on the filling of the dam, including the volume of water it wants the dam to release annually, rejecting it as "inappropriate". 

Bekele said earlier this week Egypt wants Ethiopia to fill the dam's reservoir over a longer period of time, seven years, and to release 40 billion cubic meters of water every year.

“The proposal from Egypt was unilaterally decided...(it) didn’t consider our previous agreements,” he said.

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have been engaging in talks since 2014 to reach a final agreement on the operating of the hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, which Egypt fears could reduce its share of Nile water.

In March 2015, the three countries signed a Declaration of Principles on safeguarding the interests of all three parties in accessing the Nile waters.

After a year of stalemate, talks around the specifics of the operation of the dam and the filling of its reservoir began again in Cairo on Sunday, but did not produce any agreements.

Assegid referred to Egypt's proposal on the filling timeframe of the mega hydroelectric dam project as one which “ignores the procedure of the tripartite negotiation and obtrudes from the system.”

"[The Egyptian proposal] does not accept and respect current and future rights and development plans of Ethiopia over the Nile and complicates filling of the dam," said the spokesman.

Earlier this week, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that Egypt would not allow any one party involved in the GERD issue “to impose its will” on another.

In separate comments, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi last week described the construction of the dam as a "mistake" that Egypt has been paying for since 2011 and “would continue to pay for.”

It's unclear how quickly Addis Ababa seeks to fill its reservoir, but Bekele said on Thursday that his country will submit its own technical proposal on the filling, without providing further details.

“Ethiopia believes that inappropriate unilateral moves that could disrupt the spirit of trust and cooperation build among the three countries for the past seven years should be stopped," Assegid said on Friday.

The GERD is the centrepiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter and is expected to generate more than 6,000 megawatts.

A new round of negotiations are set to be held next month in Sudan.

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