The Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb has called on the international, Arab, Islamic, and African communities to support Egypt and Sudan in preserving their water rights.
In a statement issued on Tuesday night, El-Tayyeb demanded the international community address the claims of ownership of the River Nile by some countries that harm the lives of the peoples of the two downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
For almost a decade, Egypt and Sudan have been pushing towards a comprehensive and legally binding agreement with Ethiopia over its near-complete dam – which is being built on the Blue Nile – before commencing its second filling next month. However, Addis Ababa has repeatedly refused to sign a binding instrument on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), seeking instead to draft guidelines that can be modified any time at its discretion.
Addis Ababa’s officials have repeatedly announced they would fill GERD’s 74 billion cubic metres (bcm) reservoir with 13.5 bcm starting 22 July to raise the amount of water to 18.4 bcm, up from the 4.9 bcm it secured in 2020, with or without a deal.
"All religions agree that the ownership of natural resources necessary for people's livelihood, like rivers, are public property, and it is not right in any case, and under any circumstances, to be left to the property of an individual, individuals, or a state to have the exclusive disposal of them excluding all other countries participating in this [international] natural source," El-Tayeb said.
"The prohibition, confinement, or restriction [of water] on others is a deprivation of one of the rights of God Almighty and whoever does that is an unjust and aggressor," the leader of the Sunni Muslim world's top religious institution said, calling on the responsible authorities locally, regionally, and internationally to protect the rights of people from such "perversion and corruption in land."
He also hailed the Egyptian and Sudanese diplomatic efforts for adopting serious negotiations and striving to find solutions that preserve the rights of all, the statement said.
While Addis Ababa argues the GERD issue is a matter of Ethiopian national sovereignty, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri made it clear in May that “there is no sovereignty when it comes to an international river.” The foreign minister also stressed that Egypt will not accept harm caused by irresponsible behaviour, and will steadfastly defend its water rights.