Filling Ethiopia dam will lead to 'prolonged drought'

Clay Curtis
June 30, 2020

Tortuous negotiations over the years have left the two nations and their neighbour Sudan short of an agreement to regulate how Ethiopia will operate the dam and fill its reservoir, while protecting Egypt's scarce water supplies from the Nile.

Responding to Egypt's decision to take the issue of the GERD to the UN Security Council, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew in a June 22 letter said Egypt's insistence on the "historical rights and current use" has made it hard to reach a settlement on the dispute.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Twitter the discussions were "fruitful", adding that the African Union offers the "right space to dialogue".

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said the countries "agreed to an AU-led process to resolve outstanding issues", without elaborating.

The development follows a long-standing dispute over the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, which is expected to provide electricity to millions in Ethiopia but has stoked fears from the two other Nile River basin countries.

Ethiopian water minister Seleshi Bekele said consensus had been reached to finalise a deal within two to three weeks, a day after leaders from the three countries, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who chairs the AU, held an online summit.

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According to the statement, Ramaphosa expressed his aspiration to intensify coordination between the two countries during the coming period, added Radi, noting that the South African President praised the honest and constructive political will that Egypt has always shown to reach a solution to the dam crisis.

The summit sent a letter to the UN Security Council to take the matter into consideration during its session on Monday to discuss the GERD issue.

Egypt said that the success of this process requires that all parties are committed to not taking any unilateral measures without prior agreement, and to immediately return to negotiations to finally reach a just agreement that satisfies all sides.

Egypt previously chose to request the United Nations Security Council's intervention in the dispute on Ethiopia's massive dam, after Egypt had said several times that the two countries have reached a deadlock.

Over the past few years, tripartite talks on the rules of filling and operating the Ethiopian grand hydropower dam, including those hosted by Washington, have been fruitless. "So this is actually a really good time to start filling the dam".

It wants to start filling the dam's reservoir in July when its rainy season begins. In October 2019, Egypt blamed Addis Ababa for hindering a final agreement concerning a technical problem, calling for activating Article No. 10 of the Declaration of Principles, which stipulates that if the three countries could not find a solution to these disputes, they have to ask for mediation.

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