Egypt says Ethiopia’s unilateral filling of GERD contradicts negotiations

Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources on Tuesday criticized Ethiopia’s recent move to begin filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), saying it contradicts the current path of negotiations Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are set on.

Ministry spokesperson Mohamed al-Sebaay said that the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s order to fill the dam violates all pledges currently being negotiated.

Sebaay, in a phone interview with the al-Hayat satellite channel, explained that Egypt is currently involved in negotiations that began five days ago under the auspices of the African Union (AU), the European Union and the US, at the invitation of South Africa, the current AU head.

Egypt is taking every means possible to reach a peaceful solution, he said, adding that the GERD’s construction is not yet finalized.

He stressed that Ethiopia is not justified to begin filling the damn, and that Egypt has spent over 40 hours in negotiation sessions with Ethiopia in accordance to the outcomes of a mini-summit on June 26, attended by leaders from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister announced on Tuesday that his country will start filling GERD’s reservoir to take advantage of the heavy rain season, assuring that this will not bring any harm to Egypt.

He added that Ethiopia’s disagreements with Egypt over the operation and filling of the dam will be solved through African means.

The water resources ministers of the three countries, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, started series of meetings that on Friday as part of the relaunching of negotiations, which is now sponsored by South Africa as the current president of the AU, and scheduled to continue until July 11.

The negotiations is attended by observers from the United States, the European Union, South Africa, representatives of the African Union Office and the African Union Commission, and legal experts from the African Union Office.

Discussions during the previous days revealed that no consensus has been reached between the three countries at the technical and legal levels.

It was agreed to continue the discussions by holding bilateral meetings for the observers with the three countries separately, within the framework of working to benefit from the expertise available to the observers and receiving their proposals if necessary regarding the contentious points.

Last month, Egypt called on the UN Security Council to intervene in the GERD dispute in order to help Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan continue their negotiations, in accordance with international law, to reach a fair and balanced solution.

The move came after the Sudan-mediated talks, during June 9 to 13, failed to reach an agreement on filling and operating GERD. Ethiopia has announced that it would start filling GERD’s reservoir unilaterally.

Egypt, which relies considerably on fresh water from the Nile, has voiced fears that the GERD would negatively impact the country’s water supply, especially in light of overpopulation fears, and has insisted that measures be put in place to protect downstream countries in case of drought during the filling process at the dam.

Ethiopia, on the other hand, has stressed the importance of the project to bolstering the economy in the country, where more than half of the population currently lives without access to electricity.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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