Egypt FM starts African tour to explain GERD dispute; meets with leaders of Kenya, Comoros

Ahram Online , Monday 19 Apr 2021

The Egyptian minister delivered a message from President Sisi to the leaders of Kenya and Comoros regarding the latest developments in the GERD negotiations

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry during his meeting with the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry began on Monday an African tour aiming to brief the continent's leaders on the recent updates on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issue, meeting with the presidents of Kenya and Comoros.

The Egyptian minister delivered a message from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose county is a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), regarding the latest developments with regards to the GERD negotiations.

Shoukry also delivered another message to Comoros President Azali Assoumani, whose country is a member of the African Union (AU) Bureau Heads of State and Government.

During both meetings, Shoukry explained the outcomes of the latest meetings hosted in the Congolese capital earlier this month.

A two-day round of talks was held in Kinshasa on 4-5 April under the aegis of DR Congo, the current head of the AU, with the aim of reviving the stalled negotiations, but no progress was made.

Egypt and Sudan have been negotiating with Ethiopia for 10 years now to reach a legally binding agreement over the rules for filling and operating the near-complete GERD, but to no avail, with the latest round stalled in January.

Cairo and Khartoum have blamed Addis Ababa's intransigence and lack of political will for the failure to reach any legally binding deal on the filling and operation of the GERD.

Shoukry told the Kenyan and Comoros presidents that Egypt has participated in the meetings with a "sincere" political will to revive the deadlocked negotiations.

He also expressed Egypt's keenness to work with states and parties concerned with this crisis to break the current deadlock and reach a binding agreement that protects the water rights of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

The African tour comes in response to the collapse of the Kinshasa talks and Ethiopia's plans to move ahead with the second filling of the dam in July and August despite the objections of Egypt and Sudan over the move in the absence of a legally binding deal.

Both downstream countries view the second filling, which aims to collect around 13.5 bcm of Blue Nile water, as a threat to their interests and a violation of the international laws related to transboundary rivers.

Egypt and Sudan have sent letters to the UN Security Council explaining the latest developments in the 10-year-old crisis, and asking for persuading Ethiopia against taking any unilateral action before a legally binding deal is reached.

Kenya and Tunisia are currently the only two African countries that have non-permanent membership in the UNSC.

Tunisian President Kais Saeid affirmed last week that his country would never accept Egypt’s water security to be compromised, stressing that Egypt's stance is Tunisia’s own stance in any international arena.

Ethiopia notifies UN Security Council

Ethiopia, on the other side, has called upon members of the UNSC to urge Egypt and Sudan to return to the tripartite negotiations under the brokerage of the AU.

In a letter addressed to the current President of the UNSC on Friday, Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen claimed that Egypt and Sudan chose to "internationalise" the issue to exert "undue" pressure on his country.

The letter mentioned Egypt and Sudan’s rejection of an Ethiopian initiative on data exchange before the commencement of the second filling of the dam, according to a statement released by the Ethiopian foreign ministry on Monday.

Cairo has said that the proposal included “several fallacies and claims” that do not reflect the track of talks in the past years, asserting, along with Khartoum, that the exchange of data should take place only after an agreement is reached, not before.

Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati has also said that the proposal only aims to provide a political and technical umbrella to impose a fait accompli on downstream courtiers, a matter that will not be accepted.

Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly pursued reaching a legally binding agreement on the rules for filling and operating the GERD amid concerns that the hydropower dam will affect their water shares, but the step has been repeatedly dodged or rejected by Ethiopia.

The decade-long dispute has escalated recently between Cairo and Khartoum, on one side, and Addis Ababa, on the other, since the collapse of the Kinshasa talks earlier this month.

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