Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told his Finnish counterpart that “Egypt had hoped for the success of the African Union’s (AU) efforts in managing the file of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), but the negotiations did not yield something tangible and did not achieve the aspired results.”
In a phone call on Sunday, Shoukry stressed to the Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto that “Egypt is looking forward to the resumption of negotiations” under the presidency of Félix Tshisekedi, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the new head of the AU.
The DRC assumed the presidency of the AU in 2021 in early February, replacing South Africa as chair.
The months-long attempts by South Africa, in its capacity as the chair of the AU in 2020, at mediating a deal to end the deadlock in negotiations in the GERD dispute between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have failed due to Addis Ababa’s persistent intransigence.
According to a statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry, Shoukry, moreover, stressed to Haavisto Egypt’s insistence on the need to reach a legally binding agreement in the GERD dispute between the three countries before Ethiopia initiates the second stage of filling the dam’s reservoir.
Ethiopia has recently announced that it would start the second phase of filling the GERD’s 74 billion cubic metre reservoir during the rainy season of 2021 with 18.4 billion cubic metres of the Blue Nile’s waters, a year after completing the first filling with 4.9 billion cubic metres.
Shoukry also stressed to his Finnish counterpart that the legally binding agreement could be reached through launching a serious negotiation path, taking into account the interests of the three concerned countries.
Egypt and Sudan have been in talks with Ethiopia for years now to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operating of the $4.8 billion near-complete mega dam, which Ethiopia has started building on the Blue Nile since 2011. Ethiopia, however, has proposed a package of “non-binding guidelines” for the filling and operation of the GERD which were rejected by both downstream countries.
“The Egyptian state has expressed its sincere political will to reach a fair and balanced agreement that achieves Ethiopia’s development goals and at the same time preserves Egypt’s rights and secures the two downstream countries from the risks and damages of the GERD,” Shoukry told Haavisto.
Egypt’s 100 million-plus population relies on the Nile River for more than 95 percent of its renewable water resources. It fears the massive $4.8 billion hydropower near-complete project will significantly diminish its crucial water supply, which is already below scarcity level.
Sudan, however, fears the GERD would put the operation of its Roseires dam, whose reservoir is located only 15km away from the Ethiopian dam, and the lives of 20 million Sudanese citizens at “a very high risk” if an agreement regulating its operation and filling is not reached.
Ethiopia, on the other hand, hopes its 6,000-megawatt dam will make it Africa’s largest power exporter and will be a key to its development efforts.
The two foreign ministers also discussed other pertinent issues in the Horn of Africa, according to the statement.