Egypt's foreign minister Sameh Shoukry (R) speaks about Ethiopian dam dispute during a press conference with German foreign minister Heiko Maas (Photo Courtesy of MOFA)
Cairo has said it has received an invitation, along with Ethiopia and Sudan, from the US for a meeting on 6 November to break the stalemate on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
At a press conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry gave the date for the US meeting, nearly a week after the country announced the Trump administration has delivered an invitation to the three countries on the deadlock.
Shoukry described the idea of a mediator as a proof of good intentions, stressing that Egypt tries to cooperate and resolve all issues through its diplomatic and peaceful channels.
It’s unclear if Ethiopia or Sudan will attend the US-sponsored meeting, as Addis Ababa has not been positive about the possibility of a mediation attempt.
Shoukry has said that the idea of the mediator comes under the 2015 Declaration of Principles, signed by the three countries.
Per the declaration, if the parties involved do not succeed in solving the dispute through talks or negotiations, they can ask for mediation.
Cairo suggested in 2017 that the World Bank could be a mediator in the ongoing dispute; however, the proposal was rejected by Addis Ababa.
Shoukry said he hopes that all parties, including private companies involved in the dam, function under one standard, and not “double standards.”
"Unfortunately, we are monitoring some of the companies refrain from cooperation related to dam-building due to the lack of environmental, economic, and safety studies; while they overlook all of this when it comes to another dam, like the GERD, which hasn't provided such studies," Shoukry said.
The minister referred to the matter as a “substantive” issue for Egypt, stressing that "it's not about development, it's a matter of life.”
“The GERD issue is a scientific one that shouldn't be politicised. It should not be exploited to achieve political aims,” Shoukry said.
His statements come a few days after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed agreed during a meeting in Russia’s Sochi that the GERD’s independent technical committee should immediately resume its work in a more open and positive way.
The $4.8 billion dam, which is being built on the Blue Nile 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.
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 harm the downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan.