GERD 94% complete, final concrete to be poured by September 2024: Ethiopian official

Radwa ElSayed Hani , Wednesday 20 Dec 2023

Sileshi Bekele, Ethiopia's chief negotiator on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and ambassador to the US, said on Wednesday that construction on the GERD is 94 percent complete, with the last concrete set to be poured by September 2024.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)


According to a statement by the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, Bekele's remarks came during a press briefing regarding the results of the fourth and final trilateral round of talks between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan on the GERD, which concluded Tuesday.

Furthermore, the Ethiopian politician reiterated that his country is committed to addressing outstanding issues and reaching an amicable solution to the use of the Nile water resources, guided by the principle of equitable and reasonable use without causing significant harm to downstream countries.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources stated that GERD negotiation tracks have reached an end due to the persistent Ethiopian rejections of any of the proposed technical or legal solutions that would safeguard the interests of all parties, including Addis Ababa itself.

The ministry highlighted Ethiopia's consistent backtracking on the previously agreed-upon understandings reached among the nations.

“Ethiopia elects to continue exploiting the negotiation as a cover to solidify a fait accompli on the ground while negotiating solely to obtain approval from the downstream countries for unregulated and absolute Ethiopian control of the Blue Nile, disregarding Ethiopia's obligations under international law,” read the Egyptian statement.

Additionally, the ministry asserted that Egypt “will closely monitor the filling and operation of the GERD and reserves its right, under international charters and accords, to defend its water and national security in the event of harm.”

The first round of talks was held in Cairo in August, the second in Addis Ababa in September, and the third in Cairo in October.

The talks are the first since negotiations sponsored by the African Union collapsed in April 2021.

For more than a decade of negotiations, Egypt and Sudan have been seeking a legally binding agreement governing the filling and operating of the dam that ensures their water security and own dams' safety along with the interests of Ethiopia. However, Ethiopia seeks to sign non-binding guidelines on the dam's filling and operation rules that can be modified at any time at its discretion.

Egypt, which relies mainly on the Nile for its water needs, fears that the dam will harm the country’s already scarce water supply.

Egypt’s annual share of water is 560 cubic metres per person, cabinet figures show, placing the country well below the international threshold for water scarcity.

According to the UN, a population faces water scarcity when annual water supplies drop below 1,000 cubic metres per person.

Egypt needs up to 114 billion cubic metres while it receives 60 on average, coming mostly from the Nile and underground water.

‘Colonial-era agreements’

During Wednesday’s press briefing, Bekele echoed previous Ethiopian claims, claiming Egypt was insisting on protecting "unacceptable colonial-era agreements."

"Ethiopia maintained its stance of accommodating the interests of all the riparian countries that would help bring cooperation and common prosperity to the region," he added.

In May, Egypt called on Ethiopia to stop the "tendentious invocation" of so-called "colonial agreements" to evade both its legal obligations as well as its moral duty not to harm downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.

Cairo further stressed that what Addis Ababa refers to as "colonial agreements" were agreements signed when Ethiopia was a sovereign state.

A similar response was issued by Sudan in 2021 towards Ethiopia’s same claims.

Sudan at the time threatened that disavowing these agreements meant “compromising sovereignty” over the Benishangul region on which Addis Ababa is building the controversial dam, urging Addis Ababa to commit to the international agreements it signed as “an independent state."

The Anglo-Ethiopian treaty was signed in 1902 between the United Kingdom – representing Egypt and Sudan – and Ethiopia – represented by Emperor Menelik II of Abyssinia. While the agreement has prohibited the Ethiopian construction of any waterworks across the Blue Nile that would affect the river’s natural flow, it has granted sovereignty of the then-Sudanese Benishangul region to Ethiopia.

“The Ethiopian claim that the relevant agreements are an insignificant colonial legacy is an explicit fallacy of historical facts, indicating that Ethiopia was an independent, sovereign state and a member of the international community at the time of the conclusion of those agreements, while Sudan was subject to bilateral colonialism (of the Ottomans and the British),” Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said then.

Rather than the 1902 agreement – which remains the most authoritative instrument defining the water rights of Khartoum, Cairo, and Addis Ababa – Ethiopia in 1993, also as a sovereign and independent state, signed with Egypt the Cairo Cooperation Framework pledging not to implement water projects harmful to the interests of the other, and to consult over projects to reduce waste and increase the flow of Nile water.

Ethiopia was not a party to other Nile water accords such as the 1929 agreement between Egypt and Britain, representing Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Sudan. The deal allocates 55.5 bcm of water to Egypt and 18.5 bcm to Sudan. Nor did Ethiopia take part in its 1959 supplementary agreement which confirmed Cairo and Khartoum’s annual quota and allowed the construction of Egypt’s Aswan High Dam.

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