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Ethiopia shows no political will to reach agreement on GERD: Egypt's ambassador to Washington

The ambassador said that the GERD has the potential to disrupt the lives of over 150 million Egyptian and Sudanese citizens, and will create an avalanche of socio-economic turbulence

Zeinab El-Gundy , Friday 5 Feb 2021
GERD
A worker goes down a construction ladder at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Reuters
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Ethiopia shows no political will whatsoever to reach an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Egyptian ambassador to Washington Moatez Zahran was quoted as saying on Thursday.

In a podcast interview with Al-Monitor on Thursday, Ambassador Zahran said that there is no political will from Ethiopia to reach any kind of deal unless the international community comes together and supports the negotiations, which have reached a deadlock recently.

“We've never been opposed to development in Ethiopia, we need to be able to convince people that this in fact caters to development needs but without any significant harm to the other two countries [Egypt and Sudan],” he said.

The ambassador said that the GERD has the potential to disrupt the lives of over 150 million Egyptian and Sudanese citizens, and will create an avalanche of socio-economic turbulence.

“For every 1 billion cubic meters of water that is lost to unilateral operation of the dam, Egypt would lose 290,000 incomes, 130,000 hectares of cultivated land,” he said, referring to the points raised by the Egyptian embassy’s virtual meeting with Congress aides in DC on Tuesday to discuss the GERD crisis.

“It is a matter of an existential nature for Egypt,” he said, adding that Egypt held negotiations with Ethiopia and Sudan in order to reach a win-win situation.

“Unilateralism is not an option, a legally binding agreement with a dispute resolution mechanism has to be reached and we certainly encourage the new administration to be fully engaged again,” Zahran said.

Two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned during his confirmation hearing that the GERD talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan could “boil over.”

Last year, the Trump administration brokered talks in Washington DC between the three sides to break the years-long deadlock in negotiations, but failed to secure an Ethiopian signature on a draft agreement.

In September, the US suspended aid to Ethiopia, as the Trump administration blamed the deadlock in the GERD negotiations on Addis Ababa's intransigence.

Ethiopia announced last July the completion of the first filling of the dam and plans to finish the second filling this year despite the absence of a legally binding agreement between the three parties.

Sudan recently refused to participate in further talks until experts from the African Union, which has brokered several rounds of negotiations between the three sides, are given more opportunity to help bridge differences between the parties.

Egypt has accused Ethiopia of disrupting GERD negotiations and evading commitment to a binding deal.

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