Egypt to defend people’s interests if Ethiopia fails to ensure no serious harm caused to downstream states due to GERD: FM

Amr Kandil , Thursday 9 Mar 2023

The Egyptian state will defend its people’s interests in case Ethiopia fails to ensure no serious harm is caused to Egypt and Sudan's interests due to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Thursday.

This general view shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Guba, Ethiopia, on February 19, 2022. AFP


“Ethiopia has to take into consideration the interests of the two downstream countries and ensure that no serious or severe harm is caused,” Shoukry said in a press conference in Cairo with his Kenyan counterpart, Alfred Mutua.

“If this is not done, the Egyptian state will undoubtedly defend the interests of its people and take measures that lead to that,” Egypt’s top diplomat said, affirming, however, that Egypt always seeks to reach consensus and understanding on the GERD issue.

Shoukry said Egypt has sought to reach a legally-binding agreement on the filling and operation of GERD and has shown flexibility and introduced constructive proposals in this regard.

However, it is questionable whether Ethiopia has a political will to reach an agreement , the foreign minister added.

“We expect the availability of a desire that is translated into specific decisions to lead us to reach a deal,” Shoukry stated, affirming that Egypt has engaged in African-sponsored negotiations on GERD that have not borne fruit.

The Egyptian FM stressed the necessity that Ethiopia act responsibly, especially as it forges ahead with plans to build the dam and carry out the fourth phase of its filling unilaterally.

Shoukry’s remarks come shortly after the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed in a statement on Thursday that Addis Ababa will continue building its mega dam.

The Ethiopian statement called for the GERD issue not to be presented before non-African bodies, including the UN Security Council and the Arab League, and for settling the dispute only through the African Union (AU).

The Ethiopian ministry’s statement appears to be a response to Shoukry’s Wednesday remarks in which he called on Arab countries to urge Ethiopia to stop unilateral practices and accept compromises reached at the negotiations table.

Shoukry – the head of the 159th session of the Arab League Council meeting for Arab foreign ministers- approved a decision yesterday to place the GERD issue as a permanent topic on the council’s agenda.

The Arab League has been supporting Egypt and Sudan in their plea to reach a legally-binding agreement with Ethiopia that safeguards the rights of each country in development as well as historical water rights.

Last year, the United Arab Emirates attempted to mediate between the three countries by hosting rounds of technical talks but failed to achieve any breakthrough.

Over the past years, Ethiopia has implemented three phases of dam filling and started the operation of its mega dam unilaterally despite objections by Egypt and Sudan over fears for their peoples’ interests.

Egypt has warned frequently that it would not compromise its water share.

“A compromise to Egypt’s water share is a red line, and our response [if our water share is affected] will affect the stability of the whole region,” Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told reporters in 2021.

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