Egypt records ‘utter rejection’ to Ethiopia’s continuity of unilaterally filling GERD in letter to Security Council

Ahram Online , Friday 29 Jul 2022

Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry sent a letter to the President of the United Nations Security Council on Friday to register Egypt’s “objection and utter rejection” to Ethiopia’s continuity of unilaterally filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without an agreement with Egypt and Sudan on the filling and operation of the dam.

File Photo: This general view shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Guba, Ethiopia, taken on February 19, 2022. AFP


In a statement by the foreign ministry, Shoukry described such unilateral continued filling as “a clear violation of the 2015 Declaration of Principles Agreement and a grave violation of the applicable rules of international law” that oblige Ethiopia, as an upstream country, not to harm the rights of downstream countries.

According to of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Egypt received a message from the Ethiopian side on 26 July stating that Ethiopia would continue filling the GERD reservoir during the current flood season  — which takes place from July till September —, a measure that Egypt “rejects and considers as a violation of the obligations imposed by international law on Ethiopia”.

“Despite Egypt’s adherence to the necessity of reaching an agreement on the GERD that achieves the common interest of the three countries, it [Egypt] will not tolerate any prejudice to its rights or water security or any threat to the capabilities of the Egyptian people, who represent the Nile River any threat to the capabilities of the Egyptian people, for whom the Nile River represents the only lifeline,” Shoukry said in the letter.

Some 85 percent of the Nile’s waters in Egypt flow from the Ethiopian highlands through the Blue Nile – one of the Nile’s two main tributaries, along with the White Nile.

Moreover, the Egyptian top diplomat indicated that throughout the negotiations that took place over the past years, Egypt had sought to reach a fair and equitable agreement on the GERD, but Ethiopia had thwarted all efforts and endeavours made to resolve this crisis.

Egypt and Sudan, the two downstream countries, have been involved in decade-long talks with Addis Ababa over the GERD, which most recently have been stalled since April 2021.

In the absence of a legally binding deal, Ethiopia unilaterally completed the first and second filling of the dam, and started earlier this year operating the first turbine of the GERD to generate power.

It also seeks to start the third filling in August and September, according to a recent announcement by the GERD project manager.

The Egyptian foreign minister called on the Security Council in the sent letter to assume its responsibilities in this regard, including by intervening to ensure the implementation of the presidential statement issued by the Council, which obligates the three countries to negotiate in order to reach an agreement on the GERD as early as possible.

Egypt stresses its demand for Ethiopia to be responsible and comply with the rules of international law and the principles governing transnational watercourses, according to the foreign ministry statement.

The foremost of such rule, the statement says, is avoiding significant damage, and holding the full responsibility for any significant harm to Egyptian interests that may result from Ethiopia's violation of its aforementioned obligations.

Egypt also reserves its legitimate right guaranteed in the Charter of the United Nations to take all necessary measures to ensure and protect its national security, including against any risks that Ethiopian unilateral measures may cause in the future, the statement read.

On Saturday, Shoukry said in comments to Egyptian television that any harm to Egypt’s water interest “will lead to international and regional tensions”.

Egypt — which relies mainly on the Nile for its water needs — fears that the unilateral operation of the GERD and the filling of its 74-billion-cubic-metre reservoir will negatively impact its water supply, while Sudan is concerned the GERD will harm the regulation of flows to its own dams and compromise their safety. 

In December, Egypt said it invested EGP 16 billion in 2021 alone in water projects across the country – which is deemed one of the most water-scarce countries in the world – to rationalise water use and create water additional resources.

During his visit to Cairo on Monday, US Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Ambassador Mike Hammer said the US “is actively engaged” in supporting a diplomatic way forward under the African Union’s auspices that arrive at an agreement that provides for the long-term needs of every citizen along the Nile.

Cairo was the first stop for Hammer before heading to the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia in a regional tour focusing on the GERD issue.

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