Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Seleshi Bekele announced on Friday that construction on the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is now 73 percent complete, and that the country will begin filling the dam’s reservoir in July.
During a briefing on the progress of the dam’s construction, Bekele highlighted the negotiations that took place between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
In the briefing, Bekele explained the reasons for the “failure” of these negotiations — which took place in Washington DC, with assistance from the US and the World Bank — in solving the dispute between the three countries.
In his speech, Bekele claimed that the dam “will not cause any harm to the downstream countries.”
Negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia were frozen after Ethiopia withdrew from a meeting in Washington at the end of February that was dedicated to concluding a final agreement regarding the rules for filling and operating the dam.
Only Egypt has signed the agreement to fill and operate the GERD so far, while Sudan and Ethiopia have both abstained from signing.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry and its Ministry of Water Resources have rejected Ethiopia’s plan to fill the reservoir of the GERD before construction work is finished, and regardless of whether an agreement has been reached with downstream countries.
Egypt relies considerably on fresh water from the Nile and has voiced concerns that the GERD would negatively impact the country’s water supply, especially in light of fears of overpopulation, and has thus insisted throughout negotiations that measures be put in place to protect downstream countries in case of drought during the filling process at the dam.
Two weeks ago, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry addressed a letter to the members of the UN Security Council on the developments of the Renaissance Dam dispute.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry affirmed on its official Facebook page that the letter included a discussion of the stages of negotiations and the flexible and consistent positions taken by Egypt in line with international law.
The ministry stressed that the letter called for “the importance of positive engagement on Ethiopia’s part in order to settle this matter in a fair and balanced manner for the three parties concerned, and in a manner that guarantees the sustainability of security and stability in the region.”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in a video conference with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other senior officials from Sudan on Thursday, emphasized his country’s readiness to cooperate with Egypt and Sudan to reach a final agreement on the dam.
The Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported Thursday evening that the meeting was part of Sudan’s efforts to communicate with Egypt and Ethiopia with the aim of resuming the Renaissance Dam negotiations.
During the meeting, both countries stressed the importance of all three parties resuming negotiations in order to complete the remaining parts of the agreement on filling and operating the dam.
Hamdok stressed Sudan’s readiness to continue to communicate with Egypt and Ethiopia to reach an agreement that takes into account the interests of the three countries and the peoples of the region.
Sudan and Ethiopia agreed to direct the water ministers of their respective countries to resume negotiations as soon as possible.
Hamdok said on March 30 that he would visit Egypt and Ethiopia soon to resume negotiations over the dam, making the announcement during a phone call with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Hamdok agreed with American officials that the negotiation process in Washington had made great progress, and the two sides agreed on the need to continue negotiating after the world overcomes the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gedu Andargachew reportedly commented in March that his country is preparing a solution to its dispute with Egypt over the GERD and will submit it to Egypt and Sudan as soon as possible.
He said that Ethiopia is committed to resolving the GERD dispute and demanded that discussions must be “fair” and “serious” in order for Ethiopia to return to the negotiating table under the auspices of the United States.
Earlier in March, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met in Cairo with the Deputy Head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo.
During the meeting, they reviewed the latest developments related to the contentious dam, in light of the agreement reached in Washington earlier this year and signed only by Egypt.