Egypt escalates military threat while resorting to UN Security Council over Ethiopian Dam

Egypt sending mixed messages over disagreement on Ethiopian Dam

Ethiopian Dam

June 22, 2020

Egypt abandoned the trilateral meeting with Ethiopia and Sudan on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) this past week.

In stead, it took the matter to the United Nations Security Council before the conclusion of the tripartite talk. Concomitantly, Egypt is escalating what appears to be rhetoric of war. On Saturday, Egyptian president Abdul Fetah Al-Sisi gave an order to the combat unit of his Air Force saying, “Be ready for any mission.”

The Egyptian president is, however, sending mixed messages too. According to a report by CGTN on Sunday, Sisi said his country is committed to dialogue.  “Egypt is committed to dialogue in resolving its dispute with Ethiopia regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam which Addis Ababa has been building on the Blue Nile,” CGTN cited Sisi as saying. 

The Egyptian president linked the resort to the Security Council to the pursuit of peaceful negotiation. “When we moved to the Security Council… that was (because) we are always keen to take the diplomatic and political path until its end,” Sisi said, as quoted by CGTN, during his speech to his air force based in the western part of the country.

On the other hand, Egyptian Media outlets, like Egypt Independent, have started publishing news articles making comparisons between Egyptian and Ethiopian Defense Forces.

Sudan has opposed Egypt’s move to take the matter to the security council. State Minister of Sudanese Foreign Affairs Ministry, Omar Kemerdin, said that Egypt erred when it took the issue of filling and operation to the Security Council while the tripartite negotiation was underway.  The State Minister also told BBC Arabic service that Sudan will not enter into conflict with Ethiopia if Ethiopia starts filling GERD. “Sudan seeks to resolve the issue via diplomatic effort only,” he is cited as saying.

Sudan has a position that the GERD project is not against its national interest. Experts in the field rather see the dam project as something that will benefit Sudan in several ways. However, Sudan wants to reach an agreement with Ethiopia before the filling and operation of the dam and has contributed a lot for the resumption of the tripartite talk which turned out to be another deadlock situation.

Ethiopia plans to fill GERD in July of this year. Land clearing for the water catchment area is expected to kick off this week. At this time, the dam is 74 percent completed, and the entire project is expected to be completed in two years’ time (2022).

Experts said on Monday, during a discussion in Addis Ababa regarding GERD, Egypt’s stand is unjust and infringes on Ethiopia’s right to use its share of the water.  DW Amharic service cited Ambassador Ibrahim Endris as saying that Ethiopia is filling the dam using its share of the Nile river.

Furthermore, he said that Egypt did not consult with Ethiopia (or other Nile riparian countries) when it undertook big projects, including the High Aswan Dam, on the Nile River. On the other hand, Ethiopia has shared information about the project from the beginning and has also invited lower riparian countries to express their views on the project.

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