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Cairo’s major demand in GERD talk is the release of water during dry periods: Egyptian negotiator

Ahram Online , Tuesday 21 Jul 2020
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. REUTERS

Egypt's “only demand” from Ethiopia during renewed talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is that Addis Ababa discharges water during periods of drought that would reduce harm on the country and its vital Aswan High Dam, a member of the Egyptian team in the dam negotiations said.

Cairo, Addis Ababa, and Khartoum agreed to resume negotiations over the giant hydroelectric project on the Blue Nile, one of two tributaries of the Nile River, during a mini summit between the leaders of the three countries on Tuesday.

During a fresh round of negotiations sponsored by the African Union from late June, Egypt has focused on regulations governing the filing and operations of the giant dam during dry periods, when water levels are below average, to ensure the country's share of Nile waters is not affected, Egyptian negotiator Alaa Al-Zawahri told Al Arabiya news website late on Monday.

"We have set for the Ethiopians a certain amount of water at which they should halt the storage and release amounts [of water] to Egypt and Sudan," he said, adding that Cairo has provided recommended amounts of water to be discharged, storage volume and proposed quota to be received by Egypt.

Cairo, which depends on the Nile for almost 98 percent of its freshwater, fears the project will cut its already scarce supplies. But Ethiopia believes the dam is key to its development efforts and its plan to become Africa's largest power exporter.

Under a 2015 Declarations of Principles (DOP) signed between the three countries, the massive project is not a water-consuming dam, but is rather dedicated to generating electricity, the Egyptian official said.

“Power generation only requires flood water to flow into turbines and then be released naturally towards Sudan and from there to Egypt, “Al-Zawahiry said.

Ethiopia has continued to put forward new demands and drift away from major points with the aim of stalling the negotiations, he said.

While Egypt and Sudan demand an accord regulating the filling and operation of the massive dam, Ethiopia's main problem is that it believes that “any agreement would limit its freedom to build other future dams unilaterally,” said Al-Zawahiri. “This is the secret behind its intransigence."

"The Ethiopian side sees that the agreement would limit, in the future, its demand to have a full share of the Blue Nile, as it presents itself as a defender of the rights of the Nile Basin countries, although the water coming from Ethiopia is shared only by Egypt and Sudan, not by the Nile Basin countries,” he said.

Al-Zawahiry said Egypt has come up with alternative scenarios for the next coming 100 years to deal with the impacts of the GERD.

The Egyptian technical negotiation team has put forward all these scenarios during the talks to ensure the least possible harm to Egypt, while allowing  Ethiopia to operate its dam and generate electricity at the same time.

"We negotiate with Ethiopia based on all these scenarios, so in case we reach the worst scenario we can deal with it," he added.

The latest round of negotiations that concluded earlier this failed to produce an accord on the major points of contention over the filing and operation of the hydropower project.

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