Ethiopia has described Sudan's latest statements, in which Khartoum said that Addis Ababa's denial of Nile water shares agreements would compromise its sovereignty over the Benishangul region, as "utterly ridiculous," renewing a tug-of-war between the two countries over the Nile dam dispute.
An official statement released on Tuesday by Ethiopia's foreign ministry assailed linking border treaties with the Nile water shares agreements in addressing the long-running dispute caused by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Sudan and Egypt, the third party of the dispute, have been negotiating with Ethiopia for a decade now to reach a comprehensive and legally binding agreement over GERD but to no avail.
While Sudan and Egypt upheld the historic agreements as points of reference in the negotiations, Ethiopia has been trying since last year to include a new water shares agreement in the GERD negotiations, claiming that the previous agreements date back to a colonial era.
Sudan on Friday called upon Ethiopia to commit to accords on Nile water shares since it signed them as “an independent state," noting that disavowing water shares agreements means “compromising sovereignty” over the Benishangul region, which devolved from Khartoum to Addis Ababa under these agreements.
The Benishangul region, on which the controversial dam has been under construction since 2011, was granted to Ethiopia under the 1902 Anglo-Ethiopian treaty. The treaty was signed between the United Kingdom (representing Egypt and Sudan) and Ethiopia (represented by Emperor Menelik II of Abyssinia).
Ethiopia, under the same agreement, is prohibited from constructing any waterworks across the Blue Nile that would affect the river’s natural flow.
Addis Ababa described the Sudanese comment as an "unwarranted, provocative and increasingly bellicose propaganda campaign."
The Ethiopian foreign ministry said that the “attempt by the government of Sudan to mix the boundary treaties with the unjust, exclusive and colonial-based bilateral agreements on the utilisation of the waters of the Nile is regrettable."
Ethiopia claimed that its territories in the west would have been extended beyond its current boundary if it was not for the existing boundary agreements.
Ethiopia reiterated, in Tuesday's statement, its rejection of what it described as "attempts to preserve a self-appropriated water quota among the downstream countries".
The historical treaties include the 1959 Egypt-Sudan Nile waters agreement, which allows both countries full, rather than partial, use of Nile waters and confirms Egypt’s right to 55.5 bcm annually, while Sudan have the right to 18.5 bcm.
The 1959 agreement supplements the 1929 'Nile Waters Agreement', which saw Egypt and Great Britain, which represented Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Sudan at the time, sign an agreement that gives Cairo the right to veto projects higher up the Nile that affects its water share.
GERD talks have repeatedly been stalled due to Addis Ababa's refusal to include an international mediator - to bridge gaps between the negotiating parties - and Ethiopia insisting on pursuing guiding terms rather than a legally binding agreement.
Arranging a legally binding agreement has been the norm in international agreements on the management of transboundary water resources, such as the River Nile.
In addition to the GERD dispute, tensions have been running high between Khartoum and Addis Ababa over the Al-Fashaqa region, where Ethiopian farmers have long cultivated fertile land claimed by Sudan.
Addis Ababa also said Sudan’s latest comments aim to “cover up” its “aggression”, which it said has resulted in “the looting and burning of properties, [the] killing of civilians as well as the displacement of thousands of Ethiopians”.