Sileshi Bekele, the new Ethiopian ambassador to the US, who is a former chief negotiator in the GERD talks, made the remarks on Friday during a meeting between Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen and the recently-appointed US Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Michael Hammer, according to a statement by the Ethiopian foreign ministry.
During the meeting, which discussed the latest developments in the Tigray conflict, Ethiopia requested the lifting of the US sanction on the country over the AGOA preferential trade agreement, "which is hurting the ordinary people and putting companies out of business," according to the statement.
Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly expressed readiness to resume the stalled AU-sponsored talks on GERD, but demanded Ethiopia sign a legally-binding agreement.
However, Ethiopia has repeatedly refused in years of talks to commit to signing any such deal.
The last round of AU-sponsored trilateral talks collapsed in Kinshasa in April 2021 due to Ethiopian intrasigence and refusal to sign any legally binding document.
In May, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry reiterated that Cairo is always ready for dialogue on the GERD issue, describing the file as existential and a matter of national security for Egypt and its people.
Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly warned against the impact of unilateral acts on GERD on their water rights and people’s interests unless a legally-binding deal on the filling and operation of the dam is reached.
The downstream countries have reaffirmed on multiple occasionas that they are not against development in Ethiopia but insisted that this development should not endanger their water rights.
Ethiopia unilaterally implemented the first two phases of filling GERD over the past two years, started the first phase in the production of energy from the GERD in February, and plans to implement the third phase of the dam filling in August and September.
Egypt and Sudan have called for involving international partners, including the US, in the AU-led negotiations process.
The US has affirmed readiness to provide political and technical support to the three countries by urging all parties to come to the table and resume dialogue with the help of observers from the US and the European Union.
However, a 2019 US effort during the Trump administration to mediate in negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia failed.
In February of that year, Ethiopia pulled out of a final meeting between the three sides that was sponsored by the US in Washington DC to resolve the dispute, refusing to sign any binding documents.
In May 2021, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi during a visit to Cairo the US commitment to exerting efforts to reach an agreement that preserves the water and development rights of all parties.