Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during their meeting on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on Thursday (photo courtesy of Presidential Spokesperson)
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed agreed that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam's (GERD) independent technical committee should immediately resume its work in a more open and positive way, Egypt's presidential spokesperson Bassam Rady said in a statement on Thursday.
The Egyptian and Ethiopian leaders met on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit held in the Russian Black Sea resort town of Sochi on Thursday to discuss the GERD and bilateral ties.
"The step aims to reach a final agreement on the rules of filling and operating the GERD, and to overcome any negative repercussions that may have resulted from the media coverage of the recent statements attributed to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on this issue," the statement said.
Earlier this week, Ahmed said that his country was ready mobilise "millions" if it comes to war over the construction of the GERD, though he stressed that settling the dispute through negotiations is in everyone's best interest.
"In this regard, the Ethiopian PM clarified that his recent statements before the Ethiopian parliament were taken out of context, stressing his country's respect for the government and people of Egypt, as well as the commitment to constructing the GERD without harming the interests of the downstream countries," the statement added.
"The Ethiopian PM affirmed his country's commitment to the course of negotiations until a final agreement is reached," Rady said.
President El-Sisi asserted that Egypt recognises Ethiopia's right to achieve development, though he stressed that this should not be achieved at the expense of Egypt's historical rights to the Nile water.
The Ethiopian PM said that he has no intention of undermining the interests of the Egyptian people, and that Egypt and Ethiopia's stability would serve the entire African continent.
The $4.8 billion GERD, which is being built near the border with Sudan, will be the largest hydropower project in Africa when completed in 2022, generating more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity.
Last week, Ethiopia said it would not accept any mediation other than the tripartite consultations on the filling and operation of the GERD. The Office of the Prime Minister announced that Ethiopia was ready to resolve any differences and outstanding concerns by consultation among the three riparian countries.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin announced on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is offering to mediate between Egypt and Ethiopia on the GERD issue. The Russian offer comes two days after Egypt's foreign ministry said it had accepted an invitation from the US administration to host a meeting of the foreign ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in Washington to discuss the GERD, without specifying a date.
In the same statement last Tuesday, Egypt's foreign ministry said it was “shocked” by the statements attributed to Prime Minister Ahmed before the Ethiopian parliament, which included “negative signals and unacceptable implications” on the GERD issue.
Tensions have been building up between Egypt and Ethiopia in recent weeks after talks on the technical details governing the operation of the dam failed to make progress.
Egypt fears that the Ethiopian dam will diminish its water supply, which is dependent on the Nile, and is pushing for the dam's reservoir to be filled over seven years, while Addis Ababa insists on a three-year filling time.
Ethiopia maintains that the dam, which is nearly 70 percent complete, will not restrict the river’s flow.