Ethiopia's confirmation of its plans to complete the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), even if no agreement is reached on the rules for its filling and operating, reveals Addis Ababa's intention to impose a fait accompli on Egypt and Sudan, Egyptian foreign ministry said on Thursday.
"This is something Egypt rejects because of the threat it poses to the interests of the Egyptian and Sudanese peoples and the impact of such unilateral measures on security and stability in the region," Egypt's FM spokesman Ahmed Hafez said.
Hafez made the remarks following Ethiopian Minister of Water Seleshi Bekele’s comments on Wednesday at a symposium celebrating the 10th anniversary of the commencement of the GERD.
During the symposium, Bekele reiterated his country’s plan to implement the second filling of the massive dam, as scheduled, during the coming rainy season, which starts in July. He said the filling “will not be postponed by any means.”
Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly stressed the need to reach a legally binding agreement to regulate the filling and operation of the massive dam to secure the interests of both downstream countries and address their concerns.
Nevertheless, Ethiopia has repetitively announced that it would implement the second filling with or without an agreement. Last summer, it commenced with the first filling of the GERD unilaterally.
Last year, several rounds of AU-sponsored talks, under the chairmanship of South Africa, failed to break the deadlock between the three countries, as Addis Ababa refused to sign any legally binding agreement.
“It is regrettable that the Ethiopian officials use the language of sovereignty in their speeches about the utilisation of the resources of a transboundary river,” the spokesman said, in reference to the Nile River.
“International rivers are the common property of riparian countries, and it is not permissible to extend sovereignty over them or seek to monopolise them,” Hafez added.
The spokesman affirmed that water resources should be used “to serve the peoples of the countries that share them on the basis of the rules of international law, the most important of which are the principles of cooperation, fairness and non-harm.”
Hafez said such remarks from the Ethiopian side come at a time when DR Congo, which is chairing the African Union this year, is exerting “esteemed” efforts to relaunch the negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia and reach a binding legal agreement before the next flood season.
“This reflects the absence of the Ethiopian side’s political will to negotiate in order to reach a settlement to the Renaissance Dam crisis,” Hafez said.
The spokesman highlighted a Sudanese proposal, which Egypt has endorsed, to launch negotiations under the supervision and leadership of the African Union.
The proposal invites the United Nations, the United States and the European Union as well as the African Union to mediate the talks and help the three countries reach a binding agreement in the coming months.
Sudan issued the proposal after slamming the ineffectiveness of the negotiations last year and highlighting the threat the GERD poses to the people of Sudan.
Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesperson Dina Mufti said his country has not officially received Sudan’s suggestion, though he added that the talks should be conducted between the three countries themselves, not through mediators.
Earlier in March, Mufti said the tendency to invite international parties as mediators while the AU-led negotiation has not been finalised is demeaning the bloc’s efforts.