Egypt Doubtful of Ethiopia’s Call to Resume Talks on Nile Dam

Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the United States, Seleshi Bekele has called on Egypt for a return to the negotiating table regarding outstanding issues with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), an invitation that fell on deaf ears in Cairo and Khartoum at a time when Addis Ababa is preparing to complete the third filling of the dam’s reservoir during the flood season expected to start in early July.

During a June 10 meeting with US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Michael Hammer, Bekele — who also holds the position of the chief negotiator in the GERD talks — stressed his country’s interest in resuming the tripartite negotiations led by the African Union (AU).

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry confirmed in a June 10 statement Addis Ababa’s readiness for the third filling of the dam’s reservoir on schedule.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi raised the tone as he spoke recently of Ethiopia’s move to fill the dam without prior agreement with Egypt.

Sisi said, he wont say much except that no one will touch Egypt’s water, adding that the Egyptian government has been carrying out unprecedented projects to make the most of available water.

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Cairo has been seeking via diplomatic channels to invite and encourage the concerned international powers to take a decisive position in relation to the dispute with Ethiopia over the GERD and to constantly warn of the perils of slipping into a regional dispute over the Nile water, which may threaten international interests in the region as well.

In a meeting with European Commission President Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen during her visit to Cairo on June 15, Sisi touched on the GERD issue, stressing “Egypt’s keenness on reaching a binding, legal agreement that achieves the interests of all parties.”

Regarding the possibilities of a dialogue in order to reach a quick agreement before the third filling of the dam, Salah Halima, head of the Egyptian Council on African Affairs Salah Halima told Al-Monitor, “Ethiopia continues to be intransigent and evasive in a bid to carry out the third filling stage of the dam unilaterally, without any consideration to the Egyptian and Sudanese interests.”

“Addis Ababa’s call for resuming talks is a little too late and not serious in any case, as the Ethiopian authorities are still managing the Nile water through unilateral decisions and the imposition of a fait accompli,” he said.

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Halima added, “Egypt has exhausted efforts to resolve the conflict by peaceful means and has the right to legitimate defense of its interests if it senses any aggression that might threaten its national water security.”

He stressed that “the terms of the comprehensive agreement on filing and operating the GERD have been clear since the 2020 meetings [held] in Washington, and there’s no need to go back to the negotiating table for this.”

The GERD talks came to a halt and faltered in April 2021 following the last meeting between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia that was held under AU auspices in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Ethiopia rejected proposals put forward by Egypt and supported by Sudan to develop the negotiating process and enable countries and parties participating in the negotiations as observers to actively engage in the talks, participate in the conduct of negotiations, and propose solutions to controversial technical and legal issues,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement following the last round of talks on April 6, 2021.

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Resuming negotiations over the contentious issues of filling and operating the dam remains unlikely unless Ethiopia shows good faith in implementing the terms of the Declaration of Principles Agreement that was signed between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in March 2015 to turn the GERD dispute from a conflict issue to a project of cooperation and joint management of the water of the Blue Nile, in a bid to serve the interests of the three countries and reduce the potential severe damage from water retention and storage on the Ethiopian plateau.

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