Amid escalating tensions with Ethiopia over the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi stressed on the necessity of reaching a deal on the dam issue.
In a televised speech made during an inspection tour of Egypt’s Western Military Region on Saturday, El-Sisi stressed the need for “a strong move to finalise talks and reach an agreement.”
“I tell the Ethiopian people. I spoke to you in front of your parliament five years ago. I said we appreciate development in Ethiopia; however, you should respect life in Egypt,” he said.
Saturday’s statements are the first by the Egyptian president since Egypt officially lodged a complaint with the UN Security Council after Ethiopia said it would start filling the dam’s reservoir next month regardless of whether a deal is reached.
The latest round of talks, brokered by Sudan, over the giant $4.8 billion hydropower project collapsed last week after Ethiopia refused to enter into a binding agreement on how the dam should be operated.
Egypt has asked the Security Council to “intervene to affirm the importance of the three countries resuming the negotiations with goodwill…to reach a fair and balanced solution,” the foreign ministry said in a statement late on Friday.
The ministry said the move came after the recent talks hit a dead end “as a result of Ethiopian stances that are not positive.”
Egypt filed the complaint with the UNSC hours after Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew told the Associated Press that it was “not mandatory to reach an agreement” before the filling of the dam, confirming that Addis Ababa would “commence the filling process in the coming rainy season.”
The growing conflict has led to a diplomatic war of words between Cairo and Addis Ababa in the past months that saw an exchange of letters to the UN Security Council over developments related to the dam.
Ethiopia hopes the massive $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile, which has been under construction since 2011, will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.
Egypt receives an annual release of 55.5 billion cubic metres from its High Aswan Dam, while it requires over 80 billion cubic metres to meet its needs. The country bridges the gap by water recycling and reuse.
Cairo fears the dam will diminish its water supply from the Nile, on which it relies for much of its fresh water.
The populous country currently has a water share of around 570 cubic metres per person annually, well below the water scarcity level of 1,000 cubic metres per person per year. The figure is expected to drop further to 500 cubic metres by 2025.