Arab countries have tools to pressure Ethiopia on its intransigence in GERD dispute: Arab Parliament speaker

Ahmed Morsy , Thursday 26 Aug 2021

Arab Parliament Speaker Adel Al-Asoumi emphasised the need to take a strong Arab stance, to the point where he demanded a boycott of Ethiopia if its intransigence continued

File Photo: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam. AFP

Arab countries have tools to apply pressure on Ethiopia to counter its intransigence on the dispute regarding  the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Arab Parliament Speaker Adel Al-Asoumi said on Thursday.

Al-Asoumi’s statement came during a symposium held by Al-Ahram Arabic Gate that was moderated by Maged Mounir, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram Arabic Gate and Al-Ahram Al-Massai.

The Arab parliament speaker stressed that the GERD issue should not be an issue just for one or two Arab countries — Egypt and Sudan — but rather an issue for the entire Arab nation, pointing out that “it is connected to Arab national security.”

Al-Asoumi also expressed his faith in the methods of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his ability to manage the GERD file, emphasising that Egypt’s ability and political clout will ultimately ensure that the file will end in the interest of Egypt and Sudan.

He added that the Arab parliament has sought to involve itself in this file in the recent period given its belief that it greatly affects the Arab world as a whole and has been keen to voice its support of Egypt and Sudan’s efforts.

“The importance of this Arab voice is that we have dealt with all external parties, especially the UN, given the current crucial stages of this issue,” the Arab parliament speaker said, blaming any failure to reach an agreement on the Ethiopian side.

The Arab parliament speaker emphasised the need to take a strong Arab stance, to the point where he demanded a boycott of Ethiopia if its intransigence continued, describing the delay in reaching a solution from the Ethiopian side to be against its interest.

On the other hand, he said, there is a keenness on the part of the Egyptian and Sudanese sides to develop frameworks for a solution in the interest of the three countries.

Egypt and Sudan — the two downstream countries — have been negotiating for almost a decade now with Ethiopia to reach a legally binding deal on the GERD, the construction of which started on the Blue Nile in 2011.

The last round of talks concerning the $4.8 billion Ethiopian hydropower project — which was sponsored by the African Union (AU) and aimed to revive the already stalled negotiations since January — was held in the AU’s chair country — the DR Congo — in April, but failed to stir the stagnant water, with both Egypt and Sudan blaming Ethiopia’s “intransigence.”

Last month, El-Sisi said that Egypt’s approach to the negotiations with Ethiopia over the past ten years has been based on the necessity of reaching a legally binding agreement on the dam in accordance with international norms and constants, stressing that the negotiations with Addis Ababa over the GERD should not go on indefinitely.

In early July, the UN Security Council held a session on the GERD, which was held at the request of Egypt and Sudan, in an attempt to settle the dispute over the near-complete dam.

The session was described by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry as an achievement for Egyptian diplomacy given that the GERD-related session was the second following an earlier one held the previous year.

El-Sisi has previously assured while addressing Ethiopians that “cooperation is better than tussling”.

“I say to our Ethiopian brothers, [we] should not get to a point where you infringe upon a drop of Egypt’s water, because all options are open … cooperation is better … to build with each other is better than to disagree and tussle,” he said.

The president affirmed that Egypt’s stance on the dam has always been “honourable” as it respected the desire of the Ethiopian people to develop their country.

“I had said in the [Ethiopian] parliament that we appreciate development, provided that it does not affect Egypt’s water interests … and I stand by what I said.”

Egypt relies on the Blue Nile — which originates in Ethiopia and is one of the two main tributaries of the world’s longest river — and the White Nile, which converge in Khartoum before flowing north through Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea.

Egypt, which is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, receives around 60 bcm annually, mainly from the Nile. However, its needs stand at around 114 bcm, placing the 100-million-plus country well below the international threshold for water scarcity at 560 cubic metres per person annually — as opposed to 1,000 cubic metres per person.

The country fears that the unilateral filling and operation of the massive hydropower project will significantly diminish its water supply.

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