Egyptian Parliament Speaker Hanafy Gebaly stated on Sunday that Egypt has never stood against its brothers’ right to development, however, it rejects any infringement of its Nile water rights.
Gebaly was referring to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Addis Ababa hopes will make it Africa’s largest power exporter and sees it as crucial to its development efforts.
Throughout the decade-long GERD negotiations, Ethiopia has been evading the legally binding deal that Egypt and Sudan have been seeking on the filling and operation of the dam, preferring “guidelines” that can be modified any time at its discretion, and has opposed any international mediation proposed by the two downstream countries to facilitate negotiations and bring the views closer.
Egypt, which relies on the world’s longest River Nile for more than 95 percent of its renewable water resources, on the other hand, fears that the unilateral filling and operation of the massive hydropower project will significantly diminish its water supply, which at 560 m3 per person annually is already well below the international threshold for water scarcity.
Unlike Ethiopia, whose annual floods are around 900 billion cubic meters (bcm) and has around 9 major rivers, Egypt is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, as it receives around 60 bcm annually — mainly from the River Nile — though its needs are around 114 bcm.
In a general session of the parliament on Sunday, Gebaly pointed out that Ethiopia’s behaviour “is characterised by unjustified intransigence that the Egyptian state rejects,” because of its negative impact on Egypt's water security.
The Egyptian parliament speaker stressed that “reaching a fair agreement on the issue of the GERD prevents the region from sliding into conflict.”
On the other hand, Gebaly hailed the speech of Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry before the security council, which was held at the request of Egypt and Sudan on Thursday in an attempt to settle the dispute over the near-complete GERD.
He added that Shoukry’s speech expressed the Egyptian stance towards the fateful issue, and that “we are following up with the international community to reach a binding agreement to fill and operate the GERD in coordination with the African Parliament,” calling on it to carry out its African diplomatic responsibilities.
Gebaly moreover affirmed that the Egyptian state has spared no effort to defend and preserve its water rights as “the Nile is the lifeline of its existence,” saluting President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi for rightly and honourably defending the state’s capabilities.
“We declare that we all stand behind the political leadership and support the protection of the historical rights of the people. The waters of the Nile are the lifeline of Egypt,” Gebali said, stressing that “we are confident that the challenge we are facing will be vigorously overcome and a new victory will be achieved.”
A 1929 agreement, which was signed between Egypt and Britain, representing Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Sudan, allocates 55.5 bcm of the Nile’s waters to Egypt and 18.5 bcm to Sudan.
Earlier in 1902, the Anglo-Ethiopian treaty was signed between the United Kingdom — representing Egypt and Sudan — and Ethiopia — represented by Emperor Menelik II of Abyssinia — has prohibited the Ethiopian construction of any waterworks across the Blue Nile that would affect the river’s natural flow.
The same treaty granted sovereignty of the then Sudanese Benishangul region, where Addis Ababa has been building the controversial dam since 2011, to Ethiopia.