Development projects on Nile have to abide by international law: Irrigation minister to UN environment programme director

Zeinab El-Gundy , Tuesday 6 Jul 2021

Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati accused Ethiopia in his meeting with Andersen of seeking to evade any obligation it has towards the downstream countries

Mohamed Abdel-Ati & Inger Anderson
combined image of Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati and UN Environment Programme Director Inger Anderson.

Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati said on Tuesday that Egypt was not against development projects in Ethiopia or any Nile basin countries, but those projects should be implemented within the framework of international law and take into consideration the concerns of downtown stream countries.

This came in a video conference held earlier Tuesday between Minister Abdel-Ati and UN Environment Programme Director Inger Anderson where they discussed the latest developments of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and its dispute according to the irrigation ministry.

In the meeting, Abdel-Ati stated Egypt has already assisted Nile basin countries in building dams according to a cooperative framework and that Egypt was seeking to achieve cooperation with Ethiopia though a legally binding agreement for the filing and operation policies of the GERD that would meet the best interests for all parties.

The minister recounted how Egypt was flexible in the GERD talks that continued for ten years, whereas this flexibility was met by inflexibility from Ethiopia, as it seemed the upstream country did not have the political will to reach an agreement.

Abdel-Ati accused Ethiopia in his meeting with Andersen of seeking to evade any obligation it has towards the downstream countries.

The online meeting with the UN environment programme director came less than 24 hours after Ethiopia’s declaration that it already started the second filing of the GERD in a letter to both Egypt and Sudan without reaching a legally binding agreement. Egypt has already expressed its categorical rejection to the Ethiopia’s unilateral action.

The Egyptian irrigation minister hinted in his talk on Tuesday to the dire consequences of Ethiopia’s decision on both Egypt and Sudan, especially if the filing or the dam’s operations come in a time of drought.

He also spoke about the dire consequences Sudan had to endure following the first filing of the GERD by Ethiopia in July 2020 as it suffered an extreme drought followed by a huge flood, as Ethiopia went on with the filing without coordination with the downstream countries.

He also referred to how Ethiopia unleashed large quantities of silt-laden water during last November without informing the downstream countries, which caused an increase in turbidity in drinking water stations in Sudan.

According to the ministry, Abdel-Ati spoke about Egypt’s limited water sources and how they have been affected by climate change and the unilateral actions of Ethiopia.

Abdel-Ati stated that Egypt is already suffering from a scarcity it water, unlike Ethiopia, which has plenty of water sources, including rainwater, rivers, and lakes.

On her part, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme Inger Andersen stated in the meeting that the UN secretary-general asserted that the UN was ready to participate in supporting the GERD talks if the three countries agreed to reconvene.

Sudan has suggested the formation of an international quartet made of the African Union, UN, European Union, and the United States in order to push forward the talks between the three countries that reached a deadlock since last April.

Egypt supported the suggestion while Ethiopia rejected it.

Currently, Egypt and Sudan’s foreign ministers are in New York meeting with UN officials and members of the UNSC to explain the dispute before the meeting of the security council on Thursday that will discuss developments regarding the GERD as per the two countries’ requests.

Members of Egypt’s negotiations team in the GERD talks, as well as representatives of Egypt’s embassy in Kenya participated in the online meeting.

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