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Ethiopia's insistence on unilaterally filling GERD violates international law, Shoukry tells Arab FMs

Shoukry asked the Arab ministers to support the Egyptian-Sudanese demand in the Nile row, noting that the issue affects the Arab national security

Ahram Online , Tuesday 15 Jun 2021
Sameh Shoukry
Egyptian Foriegn Minister Sameh Shoukry Addressing Arab foreign ministers during an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Photo courtesy of Egypt Foreign Ministry Facebook page
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Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry reiterated on Tuesday that Addis Ababa's insistence on going ahead with filling the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the absence of a legally binding agreement with the downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, violates the rules of international law.

Addressing an extraordinary Ministerial Council of the Arab League (AL) attended by the Arab foreign ministers in Doha, Shoukry reviewed Egypt's "sincere" intentions and efforts to settle the long-running dispute by reaching a legally binding agreement.

The African Union (AU) brokered negotiations between Ethiopia and the two downstream countries stalled in April after Addis Ababa refused the two countries' request to improve the negotiations methodology by including the U.S., the European Union, and the United Nations along with the AU as international mediators.

Tensions further mounted recently over Addis Ababa's plan to go ahead with the second filling of the GERD's reservoir in July with or without a legally binding instrument with Cairo and Khartoum.

The Arab foreign ministers' meeting is held at a request by Egypt and Sudan as part of their efforts to press for international action to help resolve the dispute with Ethiopia.

"Egypt and Sudan have engaged over the past ten years in strenuous negotiations with Ethiopia without reaching any tangible progress, despite Egypt's displaying of goodwill to achieve a legally binding and just agreement that ensures Ethiopia's right to development without violating the rights of both downstream countries and without causing a serious harm to either of them," he added.

"The problem lies in the fact that the Ethiopian side only seeks to forcibly impose its vision on others, deliberately ignoring the conflict of what it calls for with all the charters and agreements that govern international rivers," he explained.

The top diplomat said Addis Ababa seeks to impose a new reality, by which the upstream countries control the downstream. "This matter is unacceptable."

"The Nile River is a common property for the upstream countries as well as for the downstream countries, and that no one, whoever he is, is allowed to change these stable rules," he emphasised.

Shoukry added said Cairo has been engaged in all negotiations paths, which involved the tripartite talks and the U.S. and AU sponsored rounds, but to no avail, adding that the downstream country blames no one but Ethiopia.

He accused Ethiopia of scuttling efforts to solve the crisis and prolonging the negotiations in order to gain time.

Shoukry said Ethiopia's intransigence and insistence on forging ahead with filling its dam without an agreement is a "grave" violation of the 2015 Declaration of Principles (DoPs) signed between the three countries.

The DoPs obliges Ethiopia to cooperate with Egypt and Sudan in filling and operating the dam. It also mandates the use of mediated negotiation in the event of a dispute arising from differences in its interpretation or application.

"In the absence of any political will [by Ethiopia] to reach a legally binding and just agreement… Egypt has proven that it is the party that acts responsibly and out of a prior understanding of the consequences of escalating tension on the security and stability of the region," he went on saying.

Shoukry asked the Arab ministers to support the Egyptian-Sudanese demand in the Nile row, noting that this "existential" issue has its impact on the Arab national security.

Egypt fears that the massive $4.8 billion Ethiopian hydropower project will significantly diminish its crucial water supply, which is already below the scarcity level.

Egypt’s 100 million-plus population depends on the Nile for over 95 percent of its freshwater.

Sudan fears the GERD will put the operation of its Roseires dam and the lives of 20 million Sudanese citizens at “a very high risk” if an agreement regulating the operation and filling of GERD is not reached before the second filling.

It warned that it will take legal action if Ethiopia moves forward with the second filing of the GERD in July without first signing a legally binding agreement.

Egypt and Sudan have resorted to diplomacy in the past weeks, briefing regional and international counterparts on their stances and developments on the latest deadlock in negotiations.

Egypt sent a 95-page letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Friday, detailing all stages of the ten-year-old negotiations and expressing its objection to Addis Ababa's plan to move ahead unilaterally with the second filling of the GERD.

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