Egypt’s ambassador to US says time for Washington to save GERD talks: Foreign Policy

Amr Kandil , Friday 30 Apr 2021

The Egyptian diplomat urged the Biden administration, through principled diplomacy, to revive the faltering GERD talks and to put-into-effect an equitable solution

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. AFP

Egypt’s Ambassador to the United States Motaz Zahran highlighted the necessity that the US acts now to save the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations, warning against the impact of the talks' failure on the entire region as well as the West.

In his article at the Foreign Policy, published on 29 April, Zahran said that the Joe Biden administration is working on formulating the best policy for managing the situation in regards to the controversial dam.

Zahran warned against the impact of Ethiopia's planned step to unilaterally implement the second phase of the GERD filling next summer without a binding agreement with both Egypt and Sudan on the filling and the operating of the dam.

The Egyptian diplomat urged the Biden administration, through principled diplomacy, to revive the faltering GERD talks and to put-into-effect an equitable solution for the three concerned countries.

Zahran said the US, through these efforts, would be protecting its strategic interests with the three countries as important regional allies.

He affirmed that the US has the required leverage to successfully dissuade Ethiopia from unilateral actions on the GERD and the pursuit of “narrow self-interests”.

Zahran also referred to the international mediation proposed by Egypt and Sudan on the GERD as “invaluable in bringing the negotiations to fruition as soon as possible”.

Sudan and Egypt are calling for engagement from the US, the European Union and the United Nations in the mediation efforts, along with the African Union, to help the three countries reach an agreement on this dam.

Zahran warned of the environmental harm the failure to resolve the GERD dispute would cause. This includes accelerating the already devastating effects of climate change in the area, he noted.

The Egyptian diplomat also warned against “a wave of illegal immigration to the West,” as well as new conflicts and unrest in the region as a result of failed negotiations.

Zahran said this unrest would be exploited by extremists and terrorists.

The ambassador hailed the US role in bringing a “new era of stability and shared economic prosperity” in Africa and the Middle East, including through brokering agreements between Israel and a number of Arab nations.

Zahran also hailed the agreement brokered by the US and the World Bank to resolve the GERD dispute, which was then rejected at the eleventh hour by Ethiopia last year.

He said, contrary to Ethiopian claims, the deal protected Ethiopian rights to generate hydropower from the GERD at optimum levels and clearly recognised their right to carry out projects on the Blue Nile.

The diplomat revealed that Ethiopia’s real reason for not accepting the agreement and abandoning Washington talks is Ethiopia’s rejection of any legally binding agreement.

Zahran says Ethiopia aims for a “framework of non-binding guidelines that it could alter at its whim," adding that the Ethiopian actions on the ground show that it clearly “undermines” the role of the AU despite its reiterated adherence to the AU-led mediation process and wants the AU role to be rather “nominal” than active.

He referred to Ethiopia’s categorical rejection of multiple joint proposals by Egypt and Sudan during the latest Kinshasa meetings - earlier this month - to revive the AU-led process as evidence for its tendency to undermine the AU role within the issue.

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