Reaching deal on GERD will allow regional integration, Egypt’s water minister tells EU rep

Ahram Online , Wednesday 2 Mar 2022

Reaching an agreement between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) would pave the way for cooperation and regional integration, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Ati has said.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Guba, Ethiopia, February 19, 2022. AFP

Abdel-Ati made the remarks in a meeting with the European Union’s Special Representative for the Horn of Africa Annette Weber on Wednesday in Cairo.

Abdel-Ati warned against false statements on the GERD and the unilateral operation of the mega dam, saying this would disrupt the water management system in both Egypt and Sudan and harm the two downstream countries.

Achieving cooperation requires the presence of a political will and seriousness from the Ethiopian side to reach an agreement on filling and operating the dam, Abdel-Ati said.

The minister also highlighted the necessity of full coordination on the filling and operation of mega-dams that lie on transboundary rivers.

Egypt and Sudan have frequently highlighted the necessity for a legally-binding agreement to be reached with Ethiopia on the filling and operation of the dam, a demand that Ethiopia has repeatedly dismissed.

Last month, Ethiopia announced the operation of the GERD's first turbine, a step that Egypt and Sudan have both condemned and described as a violation of the Declaration of Principles (DoP) signed between Addis Ababa, Cairo and Khartoum in 2015.

The 10-principle DoP obliges the three countries to take all the necessary procedures to avoid causing significant damage while utilising the Blue Nile.

Egypt has also sent a letter to the current President of the UNSC Vassily Nebenzia to express its categorical rejection of Ethiopia's unilateral commencement of operations of the dam.

Egypt, which mainly relies on the Nile for its water needs, fears that the unilateral and quick filling and operation of the GERD would have a negative impact on the country's water supply. Meanwhile, Sudan is concerned about regulating water flows to safeguard its own dams.

However, Ethiopia implemented the first two phases of filling the mega-dam on the Blue Nile over the past two years without the two countries’ consent.

Rounds of African Union-sponsored talks on the GERD, the last of which was in DR Congo’s capital of Kinshasa last April, have collapsed several times over the past years, with the two countries blaming the failure on Ethiopia’s “intransigence”.

The two countries have also called for an increasing role of the international community, including the UN and the EU, to help break the stalemate in negotiations.

In a meeting with the press on Tuesday, Weber said the EU is ready to engage more to help reach a satisfactory agreement for all parties involved in GERD.

Trust building between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia will lead to reaching an agreement that is satisfactory for all, and will ensure regional integration in areas that include energy, water, infrastructure, trade and climate mitigation and adaptation efforts, Weber said.

“These are areas that the European Union is putting more money to support in the region,” she pointed out, affirming the EU’s readiness, as an observer to the AU talks on the GERD, to engage more with the three countries to help reach an agreement.

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