Egypt says GERD negotiations with Ethiopia 'almost frozen'

Mohamed Soliman , Monday 11 Oct 2021

Egypt said on Monday that the negotiations with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are "almost frozen."

File Photo: This satellite image shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. AP

"The situation with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is now all but frozen," Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati said at a press conference earlier today, adding that "there have been international communications, but they do not live up to our ambitions."

Rounds of African Union-sponsored talks to resolve the decade-long dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan collapsed in April.

Driven by a push from the United Nations Security Council, the talks are soon to be resumed under the sponsorship of the African Union at an undisclosed date.

Minister Abdel-Ati said that Egyptians' concern about the GERD is valid, but should not be overblown.

The minister's remarks echoed comments made in July by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who also said that the Egyptian people’s concern is legitimate but assured them that "Egypt is a big country and we should not be worried."

The irrigation minister also reiterated Egypt's determination to reach a legally binding agreement on the dam's rules for filling and operation.

"The Egyptian state is at the ready to seriously negotiate to reach such an agreement," he noted, while assuring that Egypt will not allow a water crisis to occur.

Egypt and Sudan have been negotiating with Ethiopia for 10 years now to reach a legally binding agreement that regulates the rules for filling and operating the dam, as Egypt fears that its water supply will be diminished and Sudan is concerned about regulating flows to its own dams.

Ethiopia has repeatedly refused to sign such a deal, seeking mere guidelines that can be modified at any time at its discretion.

Violations on Nile waterways

Egypt, 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. To fill the gap, Egypt depends on recycling agricultural and wastewater more than once, which yields approximately 21 billion m3 per year.

Abdel-Ati added that the country is currently prioritising the rationalisation of water, lining canals, and recycling wastewater to meet the nation's water needs.

Concerning building violations on irrigation facilities close to Nile canals countrywide, Abdel-Ati asserted "the state does not tolerate any violation of its water."

In September, El-Sisi said the government — and the army if necessary — would remove building violations on irrigation facilities around Nile canals nationwide within the coming six months.

In recent years, Egypt has launched a campaign to remove the encroachments on the River Nile, which includes the removal of several properties located on the Nile's banks.

The minister said on Monday that "the state is dealing with violations dating back 50 years."

Monday's briefing was attended by head of the Supreme Media Council Karam Gabr, a number of editors in chief and board chiefs of Egyptian newspapers.

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