Egypt has expressed its “worry” to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) over the latest deadlock in the near decade-long dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
In a speech during the UNGA’s high-level meeting on water, Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly expressed Cairo’s regret that a deal has not been reached through negotiations, which have taken place over the past few years under the sponsorship of the African Union (AU) and the mediation of international partners.
The negotiations have shown in recent years an approach by Ethiopia that aims to “impose a fait accompli and undertake unilateral measures without the consideration of the rights and interests of downstream countries.”
“This has been reflected in Ethiopia starting to fill the dam last year, and an announcement that it would continue to fill the dam this summer, even if an accord is not reached between the three countries,” he said.
Madbouly said that the filling of the dam by Ethiopia without a deal violates all international obligations and norms and threatens serious harm to the interests of Egypt and Sudan.
He said that the current deadlock makes it imperative to return to serious and effective negotiations under the AU umbrella with an active participation from the international community to reach a legally binding accord before the upcoming flood season.
“This would spare the region further tension and achieve the interests of the three countries while simultaneously bolstering cooperation and integration between our countries,” he said.
Madbouly said that the issue of the Nile water was an “existential issue” that is associated with Egypt’s survival, especially as the country relies on the Nile for 98 percent of its water needs.
He said that Egypt considers the issue of water a top priority due to geopolitical realities, and that the issue is not just limited to being an environmental matter or one related to the rational and sustainable management of a natural resource.
Madbouly said that Egypt’s annual share of water is 560 cubic meters per person, placing the populous country well below the international threshold for water scarcity.
“Egypt is among the driest countries with the least access to renewable water resources. It is also among the top countries globally in terms of dependency on a single source of water,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry slammed Ethiopia’s announcement that it would commence with the second filling regardless of whether a deal is reached with Egypt and Sudan.
Shoukry said that this reveals Addis Ababa’s intention to impose a fait accompli on the two downstream countries.
Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly asserted the need to reach a legally binding agreement to regulate the filling and operation of the massive dam in order to secure the interests of both countries and address their concerns.
Last summer, Ethiopia commenced with the first filling of the GERD unilaterally.
Egypt and Sudan hope a proposal by the latter on an international quartet mediation would help break the stalemate in talks.
The proposal, officially submitted by Khartoum earlier this week, invites the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and the African Union to mediate the talks and help the three countries reach a binding agreement in the coming months.
Ethiopia says it has not officially received the proposal, and has stressed that the talks should be held trilaterally without international mediation.